AlzU Blog

Tips on Communicating with a Person with Alzheimer's Disease

Although symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) vary from person to person, it’s very common, for people in the later stages of the disease, to have progressively more and more trouble with communication. 

Tips for improving communication with a person with Alzheimer’s Disease:

-Practice using more patients than ever before, in allowing the person with AD to respond
during verbal interaction.

-Ensure distractions are minimal, talk to the person with AD on a 1:1 basis (avoiding large groups)

-Instead of asking a question that requires a sentence to answer, try asking yes or no questions.
For example, instead of saying, “What would you like to eat?” try saying, “Would you like some

-Give visual cues, such as pointing to the items you are referring to.

-Use written notes in lieu of words when your loved one seems confused by what you are saying.

-Keep good eye contact, non-verbal communication may be easier for your loved one to process than
what you say.

-Offer support and reassurance when the person with AD gets frustrated due to inability to find the
right words.

-Try implementing activities while talking to a person with AD (such as walking during
conversations).  Studies have shown that walking may help improve communication for people with AD
(see study below)

-Repeat back to the person with AD what you thought you heard him/her say and ask for confirmation. 
This shows that you are really listening and lends itself to better overall communication.

-Never criticize or correct a person with AD for miscomunicating. 

-Use short, clear, step by step instructions when talking a person with AD through any task.

-Never argue with a person with AD, it’s better to just let a topic go, and move on to discussing
Something else, if it comes to a heated disagreement. 

-Always try to speak slow and clear, using short sentences, giving your loved one with AD ample time
to listen and communicate that he/she understands, before going on to the next sentence or idea.

Study on Planned Walking, Communication and Alzheimer’s Disease

A recent study, authored by Rita Freidman PHD, RN, and Ruth M. Tappen, EdD, RN, conducted at the School of Nursing,  University of Miami, found that in a double blinded two group study, communication improved significantly in those who walked compared to participants who conversed only.

The study was conducted to discover if planned walking had the ability to improve communication performance in 36 participants who met the criteria for probable moderate to severe AD.  Study participants were selected from 2 different nursing homes.  One group engaged in planned walking and conversing for 30 minutes 3 times per week for 10 weeks.  The comparison group engaged in conversation only (without walking) for the same amount of time as the walking group.

Study Conclusions

Analysis of the data showed that communication performance improved significantly in the planned walking group as compared to the group that had conversed only.  This study suggests that planned walking may be a great strategy in improving communication performance in people with moderate to late stage AD.

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