How to Communicate with the Person with Alzheimer’s Disease


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How to Communicate with the Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

As part of our ongoing series of programs, Sycamore Village held a seminar on communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia, presented by Natalie McFarland, RN and Dementia Care Educator. This presentation offers tips such as:

•Things to avoid when communicating
•How to respond to difficult questions asked by the person with Alzheimer’s/dementia
•Communication through behaviors

Check our website for events and resources. If you have any questions regarding life at Sycamore Village Assisted Living, please call 618-222-2571.

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How to Communicate with the Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. 1. Communicating with the Person with Alzheimer’s<br />
  2. 2. Natalie McFarland, RN, BSNDementia Care Educator<br />Natalie has supervised the Alzheimer’s and Dementia related programming at Sycamore Village since 2004. She is a registered nurse and Sycamore’s on-site dementia care expert. <br />Natalie is “train-the-trainer” certified through the Alzheimer’s Association and The Best Friend’s Approach, providing continuous Alzheimer’s education to staff and families.<br />Natalie has presented at both the Illinois and Missouri Pioneer Coalition State Conferences, local Chamber of Commerce, hospitals, several healthcare facilities, and to the local community.<br />Natalie is featured quarterly on the Norm Greenberg Show through the local Charter Cable Network discussing a variety of dementia-related topics.<br />
  3. 3.
  4. 4. Overview of Dementia<br />a broad term for any brain disorder that causes confusion, memory loss, personality changes, and mental decline<br />
  5. 5. Overview of Dementia<br />Is a progressive and fatal brain disease<br />Causes plaques and tangles in the brain that destroys brain cells<br />Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia <br />Has no cure<br />
  6. 6. Communication is more than Words<br />What percentage of communication <br /> is the actual use of words? (7%)<br />What percentage of communication <br /> is tone of voice? (38%)<br />What percentage of communication<br /> is body language or gestures? (55%)<br />
  7. 7. Tips for Communication<br />Approach from the front.<br />Get the person’s attention before speaking.<br />Move slowly and gently to avoid startling.<br />Establish and maintain eye contact at their level.<br />Identify yourself.<br />Smile!<br />
  8. 8. Tips for Communication<br />Give brief, one-step directions and break down tasks.<br />Keep tasks simple and manageable.<br />Ask questions requiring only yes or no answers.<br />Praise successes and emphasize the positive.<br />Be patient and reassuring.<br />Allow plenty of time for response.<br />
  9. 9. Tips for Communication<br />Use familiar words and cues.<br />Minimize noise and distractions.<br />Remain calm if the PWD (Person with Dementia) becomes agitated.<br />Take a break and try again later.<br />Maintain a comfortable distance.<br />Use demonstration.<br />
  10. 10. Tips for Communication<br />Validate the person’s feelings.<br />Talk to the PWD as an adult.<br />Be repetitive and consistent.<br />Keep your own stress to a minimum. <br />
  11. 11. Tips for Communication<br />Speak in a conversational rate.<br />Enunciate clearly.<br />Use concrete terms and avoid sarcasm.<br />Communicate in an easy-going, pleasant manner.<br />Be their best friend.<br />
  12. 12. Things to Avoid<br />Arguing.<br />Ordering or “parent talk”.<br />Speaking louder.<br />Quizzing.<br />Long explanations/reasoning.<br />
  13. 13. Things to Avoid<br />Speaking about the person as if he/she is not there.<br />Talking down or “baby talk”.<br />Obvious frustration.<br />Taking it personally.<br />
  14. 14. Go with the Flow<br />
  15. 15. Live Their Truth<br />No matter how hard we try, we cannot bring back the PWA’s short term memory. We can, however, take hold of their long term memory and use it to create moments of joy. This means we need to live their reality. <br />When they are looking for their mom, we need to tell them their mom is getting groceries. By giving answers that make sense to them, they are able to relax and not worry about where their mom is. We don’t like doing this because we feel we are lying to them. I reassure you it is not lying but it is “living their truth”. <br />Maybe it will help to visualize yourself in their position. You have AD but do not remember you do and you think you are perfectly fine. You are actually 85 but think you are 24. You wake up every morning in a strange place and you remember you have children but you cannot find them. You ask a stranger who acts as if they know who you are “How do I get home?” They tell you the truth…”You live here now. Everything will be fine.” What would your reaction be? Does this vision help you understand? More importantly, I hope it takes away some of the guilt you have about “lying”. <br />The bottom line is there is no reasoning with a PWA and you will not be able to make them live your reality. You can fight until you are blue in the face, but one way or another they will win in the end. Live their reality and you will have more positive, productive days ahead of you. <br />
  16. 16. Sally would wake up in the morning and want to water her horse. I would whisper in her ear, “I got up early and did it for you. You can sleep in this morning.” <br />Live Their Truth<br />
  17. 17. Live Their Truth<br />Jack would wake up at 4:00 a.m. almost every morning and insist he had to go to work. He was a construction worker most of his life and until people “joined his journey” he would become combative because staff insisted he did not have to work anymore.<br />
  18. 18. “I want to go home.”<br />Difficult Situations are best addressed when you Live Their Truth.<br />
  19. 19. “Where are my children?”<br />Difficult Situations are best addressed when you Live Their Truth.<br />
  20. 20. “Where is my<br /> husband?”<br />Difficult Situations are best addressed when you Live Their Truth.<br />
  21. 21. “Why can’t I drive?”<br />Difficult Situations are best addressed when you Live Their Truth.<br />
  22. 22. Kindness is a language that all can understand.<br />
  23. 23. References<br />The Alzheimer’s Association<br /><br />The Best Friend’s Approach<br /><br />
  24. 24. Contact Us<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Phone: 618-222-2571<br />Email: <br />