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Focus on Aging

Speaking Clearly, Kindly and With Respect Keeps Conversation on Track

August 07, 2000|JANE E. ALLEN

Some tips for communicating with people who have Alzheimer's disease:

Do:

* Introduce yourself. This puts the person--who may not immediately recognize you--at ease.

* Speak calmly, softly and slowly. Be positive: Say "let's do" something, rather than "let's not" do something.

* Use short, simple, direct sentences with descriptive language, such as: "Come sit here with me on this blue couch."

* Give suggestions if the person is unable to make a choice.

* Ask one question at a time; wait for a response before continuing.

* Validate feelings rather than try to erase them. Use empathy to acknowledge the person's feelings and let them know it's OK to feel sad, angry, lonely or frustrated because these feelings happen to all of us.

* Treat the person as an adult, not like a child.

* Remember, the person can sense your mood and attitude.

* Make eye contact.

* Touch or hug the person and allow him or her to touch you.

* Be consistent in your verbal and nonverbal messages.

* Approach tasks more than once if the person won't cooperate the first time.

* Give compliments, which can be distractions from a bad moment.

* Honor past accomplishments in conversation, such as success in raising children, contributions to the community, the value of work they've done, and offer thanks.

* Focus on the person and put your own problems and concerns on hold.

Don't:

* Argue with the person. You can never win.

* Confront the person. It only creates anxiety.

* Correct the person if he or she misidentifies you or drifts into the past.

* Speak of the person in the third person when in his or her presence.

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