Talking with Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease

Senior woman and her daughter.

When your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, they will experience a plethora of changes to their physical and mental state. As the disease progresses over time, it may become difficult to understand what they’re saying, and you may find yourself struggling to communicate with them effectively.
There’s no doubt of the heartbreak you feel as your parent struggles with increased memory loss, confusion and comprehension. However, there are still ways you can have meaningful conversations with your parent and keep them in good spirits.

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is complex and will affect each person differently. There are typically three separate stages that your parents will experience when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Early Stage. In this first stage, your parent might start to find it more difficult to remember things that recently happened, learn new information or commit to a plan that requires executive functioning.
  • Middle Stage. As the disease progresses, your parent’s ability to think clearly will become more difficult. It’s common for long-term memories to fade and for emotional and behavior changes to occur in this stage. It’s also possible that during this stage, your parent’s visual abilities will decline.
  • Late Stage. This stage will be when your parent’s physical functioning begins to decline. This will make daily tasks like walking or getting dressed more difficult to complete. This is also the stage when your parent will most likely require a caregiver to help them with their basic needs.

How to Communicate with Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease

While communicating with your parent that is living with Alzheimer’s disease may seem like a challenge at times, there are many ways you can keep the conversation light and relaxing. Here are three ways you can keep interactions with your parent engaging and positive.

  1. Comment on the Present Moment. Look around the immediate environment and talk about one thing at a time. For example, you can comment on how beautiful the surrounding trees are or even something as simple as the sky.
  2. Ask Yes or No Questions. When you’re trying to obtain information quickly from your parent, asking yes or no questions is the best way to communicate. This approach is more direct and less stressful for people struggling with memory loss. This is also a more effective way to have a conversation with your parent if they’re having a bad day.
  3. Ask Open-Ended Questions. While yes and no questions are more direct, you can still leverage open-ended questions to talk to your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. When you ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me about your daughter”, you’re giving your loved one the ability to speak freely and say what they want without feeling frustrated or like they’re being put on the spot.

Phrases to Avoid When Communicating with Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease

Conversations with your parent during this time may not always make sense and can leave you feeling uncomfortable, tired and defeated. Besides having trouble understanding them at times, what if you say something that confuses them or makes them panic? Try avoiding the following phrases to keep the conversation positive and productive.

  1. “Do You Recognize Me?” While you may feel upset if your parent begins to no longer recognize you, you should try to avoid repeatedly asking them if they know who you are. This can cause them to feel upset and guilty if they aren’t sure who you are.
  2. “Do You Remember?” This is a more common question that you may ask without even noticing. There’s a good chance your parent may not remember whatever it is you’re asking them about, as memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. When your parent realizes they are losing their memories, they might start to feel embarrassed and upset.
  3. “I Already Told You That.” You will often find yourself repeating the same things over and over when speaking to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Do your best to remain patient with your parent and avoid telling them that they’ve made you repeat yourself.

Memory Care at Advent Christian Village

At Advent Christian Village, our memory care program provides quality care to those needing memory support. We believe that just because someone is in need of Alzheimer’s care, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a vibrant lifestyle.

If your loved one is in need of memory care, we offer senior care services that are designed with their needs in mind. Contact us today for more information on our memory care program.

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