Senior Health

The Top Tips for Non-Verbal Communication with Alzheimer's Patients

Show both patience and empathy

When talking to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is how you say it rather than what you say that gets through. Alzheimer’s patients can become frustrated when they don’t think you are understanding or listening to them. Show empathy, understanding, and patience. Listed below are some dos and don’ts that have been studied and are critical for communicating with an Alzheimer’s patient:

  • Don’t be offended if your patient becomes paranoid or accusatory. How often do you hear things like "Don't touch me", "I don't like you", "I want to go home", or "I hate this place"? You will hear complaints repeatedly throughout the day, but you must remain kind.
  • Reminisce if your loved one is able and willing. Going through photo albums is excellent therapy. It brings happiness and maybe a memory to your loved one.
  • Ignore offensive language. Being subjected to offensive or crude language is humiliating, so redirect their attention to something else.  Don’t make a big deal of what your loved one is saying.
  • Keep conversations simple by asking only one question or give one direction at a time.
  • Speak in a normal tone of voice and at a reasonable volume. Most Alzheimer’s patients can hear; they don’t need you to shout at them.
  • Keep trying. As hard as it is, trying to communicate is very important. It may become almost impossible for you to keep your “cool” with your loved one. Keep smiling, trying, and talking in normal tones.