Talking to Someone with Alzheimer's, Dementia, or another Cognitive Impairment
It’s very difficult to watch a loved one experience Alzheimer’s, dementia, or another cognitive disorder which impairs their memory. Communicating with someone who has memory loss can be a tricky field to navigate. Certain phrasings can trigger reactions of aggravation or irritation if the person is confused and doesn’t remember something that it seems they’re expected to. We’ve compiled a list of some quick tips on how to speak with someone with dementia.
1. Use non-verbal cues when possible. Gestures, touch, and facial expressions can be helpful.
2. Never say “Do You Remember…?” to someone with memory issues. Instead, try to reminisce with them and tell them about a time that you remember. Don’t be afraid to reminisce! When looking at old photos, instead of asking questions about photos, tell them about what you recall. This takes pressure off them to remember something that they may not.
3. Avoid phrases such as “I told you that already…” which highlight the fact that the person has been told but has forgotten. Instead, repeat and regroup. Use patience and act as though you haven’t already given the answer to calm the individual down.
4. Never shame someone for not being able to remember or for being confused. Instead, distract and change the subject.
5. Encouragement can work wonders for those who have memory loss issues. Instead of saying “Do you want to take a shower?”, try saying “it’s shower day, I’m going to go get the shower ready for you”
6. Be clear – avoid explanations and rationales. Saying things simply and getting to the point can be very effective. Short, specific statements are best. Give the person time to process what you said before speaking again as well.
7. Avoid arguments, which can make someone who may be afflicted with memory loss and confusion feel even more upset than they already do.
8. Converse one-on-one when possible. More people around means more confusion as well as potentially more background noise, which can be distracting.
We hope that you find success heading forward using these techniques to speak with someone with Alzheimer's, dementia, or another cognitive impairment.