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Alzheimer's disease can gradually diminish a person's ability to communicate. Not only do people with dementia have more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions, they also have more trouble understanding others.  Here are some tips to help you and the person with dementia understand each other better.

Changes in communication

The person with dementia may experience changes in communication such as:

  • Difficulty finding the right words

  • Using familiar words repeatedly

  • Inventing new words to describe familiar objects

  • Easily lose their train of thought

  • Difficulty organizing words logically

  • Reverting to speaking in a native language

  • Using curse words

  • Speaking less often

  • More often relying on gestures instead of speaking

Tips for better communication

  • Let the person know you are listening and trying to understand what is being said

  • Keep good eye contact.  Show the person that you care about what is being said.

  • Let the person think about and describe whatever he or she wants to. Be careful not to interrupt.

  • Avoid criticizing, correcting or arguing

  • If the person uses the wrong word or cannot find a word, try guessing the right one.

  • If you don't understand what is being said, ask the person to point or gesture.

  • Focus on the feelings, not the facts.  Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important that what is being said.  Look for the feelings behind the words.

  • Always approach the person from the front.  Tell the person who you are.

  • Call the person by name.  It helps orient the person and gets his or her attention.

  • Use short, simple words and sentences.  Talk slowly and clearly.

  • Ask one question at a time.

  • Patiently wait for a response.  A person may need extra time to process your request.

  • Repeat information and questions. If the person doesn't respond, wait a moment. Then ask again.

  • Avoid quizzing.  Reminiscing can be healthy, but avoid asking, "Do you remember when....?"

  • Give simple explanations. Avoid using logic and reason at great length.  Give a complete response in a clear and concise way.

  • other potential causes and solutions? If so, what can you do differently?

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