Communicating With An Older Adult With Alzheimer’s

Updated at: Sep 23, 2020
Communicating With An Older Adult With Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a progressive form of dementia with symptoms of the disease deteriorating over a period of time

Vani Malik
Mind BodyWritten by: Vani MalikPublished at: Sep 23, 2020

An individual with Alzheimer’s faces trouble in remembering things; there is a struggle to find words or the person may even forget what they wish to say while communicating. These changes experienced may make conversations and simple tasks worrisome for both the caregiver and the person with the disease. Many times, Alzheimer’s causes one to tangle up with language. A person may forget or no longer associate with the English language if it was a secondary language to them; they might tend to understand or use only the first language, for example, Hindi. Some of the other problems faced by a person with Alzheimer’s may include:

  • Repetition of familiar words
  • Describing objects rather than naming them
  • Losing the train of thought while conversing with someone
  • Depending on hand motions and gestures more than words
  • Trouble in finding the right words
  • Sensitivity to touch and, volume of voices
  • Failure in remembering the process of usual activities like wearing ones clothes, cooking, brushing of teeth, etc.


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Over a period of time communicating with them can be a challenging task. This World Alzheimer’s Day, let us look at a few tips on how a caregiver can communicate with their loved one with Alzheimer’s:


It is important to understand that Alzheimer’s causes changes in communication skills. Thus, be patient and take time to listen and allow time for the person with the condition to talk without interruption.


Sometimes gestures or other visual cues endorse better understanding than words alone. For example, rather than asking if the person needs to use the toilet, take them to the toilet and point at it.



Non verbal communication such as emails, phone calls, and body language are all good gestures to show someone you care without requiring an instant communication response.


Over time, a person with Alzheimer will live in their own reality. Pay attention and try to understand their main points, but don’t engage in an argument or correct a mistake in speech. Always be tone alert, i.e. how loud you speak or fast you communicate as well as your body language.


Maintaining eye contact is a simple and easy way to show your loved one that you care about them and are paying attention to what they are saying. Speak slowly and clearly, avoiding multi-step direction. Adopt or go through tasks as a one thing at a time approach, careful not to overpower or confuse your loved one. Pass up open-ended questions. Asking a simple “yes” or “no” question will help them make decisions easier and faster, eliminating the confusion.


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If a person with Alzheimer is facing difficulty in communicating, let them know that it’s OK and provide gentle encouragement. Remain patient through irate outbursts, always remind yourself that it is the disease “talking.” Offer a warm and loving gesture by gently holding the person’s hand.

With inputs from Dr Rajesh Benny, Consultant Neurology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund

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