What to Say to Someone with Alzheimer’s
Looking for help talking with someone who has Alzheimer’s? Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s and want tips for how you can relate? Does your loved one need help with memory care in Ann Arbor?
With people living longer lives, we get to enjoy our loved ones for more time, but we also see more people struggling with memory disorders, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. As these diseases progress in an individual, it can make it more and more difficult to have meaningful conversations. But you don’t have to give up connecting with your friends or family members who have Alzheimer’s!
With the right attitude and conversational tools, you’ll know what to say to someone with Alzheimer’s and reconnect with a person you may have thought you lost.
1.Ask Open Ended Questions
The best way to start a conversation or keep one going is to ask questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer, or that don’t rely on accurate memory. For example, rather than asking what someone did the day before, ask them to tell you something about a person in a photograph in the room.
2. Be Willing to Suspend Reality
Starting a conversation with someone with Alzheimer’s requires you accept their reality moment to moment, or risk both of you leaving the conversation very upset. A person with Alzheimer’s may be speaking fondly of their son one minute, and insist they don’t have any children the next. Rather than contradicting the person, it’s best to accept their reality and move on to a new topic.
3. Simple and Specific
For your conversation to have the best shot at success, choose your words carefully. Communicate things with simple and short sentences using precise names rather than pronouns or other kinds of linguistic shortcuts.
4. Draw from Your Memory, Not Theirs
It can be hard to resist when you’re talking to family or friends, but avoid the phrase “do you remember…” or any variation of it. Instead of drawing from the memory of a person with Alzheimer’s, draw from your own and talk about something you remember doing on your last visit or further in the past.
5. Be Patient, Keep Talking
It can be difficult and frustrating, but patience is the key to maintaining a relationship with someone who has Alzheimer’s. Whether you’ve stumbled on a touchy subject, or you’re not getting much of a response at all, keep talking to show you’re still there and you still care!
If you know someone with Alzheimer’s, it’s true that they are changing, and your relationship will have to change, too. But it can survive and even thrive if you are able to adapt and speak to them in a new way.
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