How To Communicate Effectively With Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s

One of the most challenging things for family members is trying to communicate with a senior who has Alzheimer’s. In the early stages of the disease, communication is usually not that difficult. But as the disease progresses gets much harder. It’s very important that you do not get frustrated when trying to communicate with a senior loved one that has Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s care at home can help you and your senior parent communicate more effectively.

Alzheimer's Care Cambridge MA - How To Communicate Effectively With Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s Care Cambridge MA – How To Communicate Effectively With Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s

Try to remember that they are experiencing a lot of challenges when it comes to communicating like:

  • Having trouble finding the right word
  • Substituting words
  • Describing an object rather than naming it
  • Repeating words, stories or questions
  • Mixing unrelated ideas or phrases together
  • Losing a train of thought
  • Speaking less often
  • Reverting to a first language

They may be scared or confused when trying to communicate. And because they don’t want to make you angry or frustrated they may fake understanding what you’re saying. Alzheimer’s care at home can help you because caregivers who provide Alzheimer’s care have specialized training in how to communicate effectively. You can use the same types of methods they use to communicate with your senior parent.

Try doing these things:

Don’t Overwhelm Them With Choices

Often family members think they’re being kind when they give a senior with Alzheimer’s choices. But too many choices are overwhelming for someone with Alzheimer’s. They can cause a lot of anxiety because seniors worry about making the “right” choice and getting your approval.

When you give choices to a senior with Alzheimer’s make them very specific and concrete. Instead of asking what they want to wear today ask if they want to wear the yellow top or the blue sweatshirt. Give them specific options. And praise them when they make a choice.

Gently Dictate When Necessary

As the disease progresses it may be necessary to gently make decisions for them. Trying to make decisions can be too much for them. Especially decisions rooted in time like when to eat a meal. Asking a senior with Alzheimer’s if they’re hungry isn’t effective. They may not know if they’re hungry or not. Asking what time they want to eat can also be confusing because they may have no concept of time. Instead, tell them gently that it’s time to eat now.

Show Them What You Want Them To Do

Alzheimer’s impacts every senior differently. So when you’re trying to communicate you should do it in several ways. That way if they don’t understand one method they may understand the other. For example, if you ask them to fold laundry that’s sitting in a basket they may not understand what you’re asking them to do. As you ask them to fold the laundry pick up an item and fold it. That gives them a visual cue of what they are supposed to do.

Try Writing Instructions Down

Writing things down can also be a good way to communicate with some seniors who have dementia. Often seniors have trouble processing spoken language but can read and understand words on a page. So instead of just saying that it’s shower day write down on a calendar on the wall that a particular day is shower day. That way when the senior sees the calendar they know it’s shower day.


If you or an aging loved one is considering Alzheimer’s Care Services in Cambridge MA or the surrounding areas please contact the caring staff at Visiting Nurse & Community Care today. (781) 643-6090