Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert! How can I communicate with my father?
Question: How can I better communicate with my father who has Alzheimer’s?
Answer: Thank you for submitting your question to Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert! I’m sure you’ve heard the says, “It’s not what you sauy, but how you say it.”. This expression hold doubly true when you are trying to communicate with your father.
People with Alzheimer’s disease have an impaired ability to understand words and to speak. However they can still benefit from non-verbal communication – body language, voice tone and facial expressions. As the individual’s ability to process verbal information decliners, the importance of how caregivers communicate with them, verbally and non-verbally increases.
Here are 16 Tips to help you communicate:
- Remember that the individual with dementia might be feeling confused, anxious, irritable and depressed and may be suffering from low self-esteem.
- Rely on the four “S’s” – simple, slow, show and smile
- Simple – Use simple words and simple sentences. Give instructions one step at a time. Slow – Speak slowly and allow enough time for your dad to understand each thought or question, Show – Show your father what you are saying; don’t just say it. Use body language, facial expressions and gestures to your your story.
- Smile – A smile sends a powerful message of reassurance.
- Speak in a time that is calm and reassuring.
- Make certain that your father has the best chance of seeing and hearing you. ie: Is he wearing his glasses and hearing aids?
- Always approach him from the front to avoid startling him.
- Address him by name before asking him to do something. This will help to gain his attention. Be sure to maintain eye contact.
- Ask only one question at a time and give him enough time to respond. If he doesn’t seem to understand, repeat the question using the same wording. If this doesn’t work, wait a few minutes and then completely re-phrase the question.
- Give him enough time to respond in a conversation or when performing an activity. Rushing him will increase his confusion.
- If he repeatedly asks you the same question, keep in mind that he cannot remember the response that you just gave him. Instead of answering the questions after a second or third request, reassure him in some way – everything is fine, you are there for him, etc.
- Eliminate distractions such as TV or radio, when talking to him.
- Avoid statements that sound negative. ie: Instead of saying “Don’t go outside”. say, “Stay inside”.
- Use humor whenever you can, though never at his expense.
- Break down all tasks into simple steps and tell him one step at at time.
- Keep on talking even when your date may no longer be verbal. Chat about things that mattered to the person and mention names of family and friends. -E-ven if communication is one-sided, it can loudly show that you love and care for him.