Healthy Living

Strategies to Help Communicate with Alzheimer's Patients

Strategies to Help Communicate with Alzheimer's Patients

Communicating with people who have Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging. However, it's important to keep in mind that the disease affects their brain, so caregivers must be both patient and understanding when speaking to an Alzheimer's patient, no matter how difficult it would seem.

It is crucial to understand that speaking to an Alzheimer's patient is not easy, and it's going to get more and more difficult as their disease progresses. While it can be frustrating, family members and friends of the patient must know the guidelines and tips when communicating with them.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease, as defined by the Alzheimer’s Association, is the most common form of dementia that results in problems with thinking, behavior, and memory loss. This deterioration of cognitive abilities and serious memory loss interferes with the daily life of the patients and the people around them. Alzheimer’s disease is not due to aging as many may think. People can be diagnosed with the disease even when they are young, which is called Early Onset Alzheimer's disease. This disease worsens over time and, often, patients are placed in nursing homes so that they are better cared for by specialists and nurses.

Initially, the memory loss is mild, but the symptoms would worsen to the point where patients lose their ability to talk and react to their surroundings. According to the 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, there are about 10 people that are 65 years and older that suffer from Alzheimer’s. Women have a higher tendency to have this disease as compared to men. Actually, about two-thirds of the American patients with Alzheimer’s are women. Alzheimer’s is also considered as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. The survival rate for people with this illness is about 20 years, depending on the patient’s health conditions and age. At this point, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, however there are treatments given to slow down the symptoms of dementia.

The communication problem with Alzheimer's disease

Ruth Drew of the Chicago Alzheimer’s Association stated that Alzheimer’s is a brain-attacking disease starting with subtle changes in the mind that progress over time. The profound changes over a period of time have a great impact on the communication, particularly with speaking and language aspects. Communication with people who have Alzheimer’s is very challenging. However, Drew said that there are effective ways to communicate with people with this illness (You can watch the full the interview here).

The friends and relatives’ understanding of the disease is divided into three categories:

  1. There are those individuals who understand the situation immediately. They are the ones that are able to adjust their conversation with patients, and they understand that people with Alzheimer’s have a different world and that their reality is different from the norm.
  2. There are those that don’t understand the situation of the patients initially. They just content to agree with the patients rather than argue and make the conversations difficult.
  3. There are those who don’t get the situation at all. They pose arguments and fight with the people who tend to forget things. They argue rather than offer their understanding. 

Read on to learn some tips and guidelines to help caregivers communicate with Alzheimer's patients.