Communication Techniques

Strategy: Sharpen Verbal and Non-Verbal Skills

Having a simple conversation can become quite hard as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Some people with dementia can speak, but not understand. Others can understand, but not speak. As a result, you will have to sharpen your own communication skills, including making non-verbal communication a part of everyday life.

  • Approach the person with Alzheimer’s disease from the front within the direct line of vision, and address him or her by name in order to avoid confusion.
  • Talk slowly and use simple words. Once engaged in conversation, give the person time to respond to a question or request.
  • Express a positive attitude by speaking in a calm and reassuring tone, smiling and maintaining eye contact.
  • Keep away from negative-sounding statements. Correcting “errors” in memory may cause unnecessary agitation.
  • Avoid a busy setting with a lot of sensory stimulation in order to focus a person’s attention. Turn off the TV or radio, which can be distracting.
  • Offer simple step-by-step instructions. If the person’s ability allows, write notes as reminders to do routine tasks.
  • Use body language, facial expressions and nonverbal gestures to reinforce words. Point to objects or demonstrate an action, such as brushing your hair.
  • Be patient. Since an individual with memory loss might ask the same question multiple times, answer the question a second time. After a second or third response, offer reassurance instead that everything is all right and that you are there to help.
  • Stop a conversation if you find yourself becoming frustrated. Return to the topic when you are calmer.