Seeing someone you care about experience Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia is painstakingly difficult. Knowing what to say to someone who’s lost his or her memory can also be hard. However, how you approach conversations can have a significant impact on your loved one.
“The most important tip for communication with someone living with Alzheimer’s is to meet them where they are,” said Ruth Drew, director of Information and Support Services at the Alzheimer’s Association. “In the early stage of the disease, a person is still able to have meaningful conversations, but may repeat stories, feel overwhelmed by excessive stimulation, or have difficulty finding the right word. Be patient and understand that their brain is not working in the way it once did.”
As the disease progresses, communicating with that person may become even more challenging. However, if you recognize the changes and challenges that come with dementia, you will more easily be able to alter your conversations with that person to meet his or her needs.
“This may require slowing down and making eye contact with the person as you speak,” says Drew. “Use short, simple sentences, ask one question at a time, and give the person time to process and respond before continuing the conversation. If you are kind, gentle and relaxed, everything will work better.”
Read on for six helpful things to say to those with Alzheimer’s, and three topics and phrases experts recommend avoiding.