Tips For Communicating With A Parent Who Has Alzheimer's Disease

9 November 2015
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog


Your parent is becoming more difficult to speak with as their disease advances. Their cognitive and verbal skills are slowing down so even simple concepts are hard to get across. Alzheimer's care specialists use a number of techniques to communicate with their patients. Here are a few tips from these professionals to help you keep the communication open between you and your aging parent.

1. Keep the conversation positive or emotionally neutral.

People with this disease become sensitive to the emotions of others around them. If you walk into your parent's room agitated from being in rush hour traffic on the drive to see them, they will pick up on that emotion, and they may become anxious themselves. It will distract them from having a conversation with you. In this case, take a few minutes to compose yourself and calm down before you start up a conversation.

2. Keep distractions at a minimum.

Your parent will find it difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time. If someone is using a leaf blower outside and there is a crying child in the room next door, you'll have a problem keeping your parent's mind from wandering while talking with them. If possible, take your parent to a quiet location before starting a conversation. Or wait until some of the distractions, such as the leaf blower, have gone away.

3. Use techniques to keep your parent focused.

Even in a quiet place, you'll have to help your parent stay focused as you talk with them. Some ways to keep their attention on the conversation include:

  • Maintain eye contact with your parent.
  • Use your parent's name in the conversation.
  • Gently touch your parent's arm to draw their attention back to you.
  • Show them the object you're talking about. For example, if you're asking them if they would like to wear a certain shirt or blouse, hold it up as you make reference to it so your parent can see the item.

4. Keep all questions simple, requiring only simple answers.

If possible, stick to "Yes" or "No" type questions. "What would you like for a snack?" might be too challenging for your parent to answer, whereas, "Would you like an apple for your snack?" is easier for them to comprehend. Limit the choices you give your parent to make it easier for them to navigate the decision-making process.

5. Use acknowledgement and redirection as a way to get your parent back into the conversation.

If you're talking with your parent and they hear a loud noise outside that distracts them, say "That certainly was a loud noise outside. As we were discussing, would you like to wear your red blouse today?" You make it OK for your parent to be distracted by the loud noise and then bring them back to the topic.

Speaking with your parent as their Alzheimer's gets worse can be frustrating. With patience and following the tips used by healthcare providers, you can keep in touch with your parent for as long as they are able.

For more information, contact Bethesda Health Care Facility or a similar location.