What Not To Say To A Person With Alzheimer’s

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Good communication is an important key to help someone living with Alzheimer’s. They might have issues with recalling incidents, remembering people or even find themselves at a loss for words. Asking open-ended questions allows them to talk freely, without worrying about a right or wrong answer. Our choice of words while communicating with them is vital in ensuring that they are not hurt or embarrassed by it. Here are a few words and questions to avoid while talking with someone with Alzheimer’s –

“What did you do yesterday?” While it might seem polite to ask about what they did the previous day or even that morning, a person with Alzheimer’s could find it stressful if they can’t remember the right answer. Replace the question with a statement like, “I really enjoyed having lunch with you today”. It is better to ask questions about the present moment than to dwell on the past.

“Remember when…?” Trying to jog memories of someone with this condition can be a stressful and painful experience for them. Starting off with “I remember when…” and then narrating the incident allows them the option to avoid or join the conversation. The person can search their memory without forcefully trying to recall the experience and being embarrassed about it.

“I’ve just told you that” Repetition is bound to happen while conversing with someone who finds it difficult to remember things. Patience and consideration are the two basic requirements while talking with them so that they are not constantly reminded of their condition. It is important for them to be listened to and understood.

“Your (loved one) is dead” People living with Alzheimer’s may forget about their parents’ or spouse’s or a friend’s death and may seem upset that they don’t visit them. During times like these, it is better to avoid giving them the straight answer that their loved one is dead. Chances are that they might not believe it, get angry at you or be very upset with the news. It is always good to show sensitivity or gently change the topic if possible.

“You are wrong!” It is better not to contradict or correct them when they say something wrong. Give them the time to see if they realize their mistake and if not, go along instead of pointing it out. It is wise to avoid any argument that you might have with them. If you arrive at the juncture of disagreement, it is best to change the topic and move on to something more pleasant.

“Let us finish lunch, watch your favorite show on TV and then go to the park” Avoid long, complex sentences as it is difficult for a person with Alzheimer’s to process the idea. It is better to give one instruction at a time and keep it short and simple. You need to have their complete attention to have a proper conversation with them.

Avoid unpleasant topics that might bother them and choose your words wisely. The aim is to put the person at ease and have a pleasant experience while talking with them.

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