East Bay CNA from Hillendale Home Care is licensed by the State of California to provide Certified Nursing training courses for Contra Costa and Alameda Counties.

Alzheimer’s Communication Tips for Each Stage of the Disease

senior with Alzheimer's and caregiver using communication tips

These tips will help caregivers more effectively communicate with a senior with dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease can make communicating even the most basic needs a challenge. Caregivers can feel as though they’re trying to solve a puzzle in determining how to meet the needs of someone with dementia and ensure life is as fulfilling, comfortable, safe, and enriching as possible.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers these helpful, stage-by-stage Alzheimer’s communication tips to help:

Early Alzheimer’s

In the early stage of the disease, the person can usually still communicate clearly for the most part, but may begin repeating stories or struggling to think of a word from time to time. You can help by:

  • Never excluding the person with dementia from conversations, or talking about them as if they’re not in the room. Speak to the senior directly, taking as much time as needed to allow them to express what they wish to say.
  • Listen without interrupting, correcting, or filling in the blanks. If the senior can’t think of the word “toothbrush” and describes it as “that thing you put in your mouth,” accept that explanation respectfully.
  • Although you should never laugh at the senior or belittle them in any way, shared humor and laughter are perfectly fine and can ease communication challenges.

Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s

Communication becomes a bit more difficult as the disease progresses. Try:

  • Minimizing distractions. Turn off the TV or radio, and talk with the senior in a quiet location.
  • Speak clearly and slowly, looking the senior in the eye.
  • Continue to allow plenty of time for the senior to respond.
  • Ask yes or no questions that can more simply be answered; for instance, “Would you like oatmeal for breakfast today?” rather than, “What do you want for breakfast?”
  • Never argue.
  • Use visual cues or simple, step-by-step instructions for a task.

Late-Stage Alzheimer’s

Nonverbal communication becomes more important in the later stages of the disease:

  • Always approach the person face-to-face and identify yourself.
  • Encourage the person to communicate nonverbally through gestures and pointing.
  • Try to determine what the senior is feeling by the words or sounds being made along with facial expressions and other types of body language.
  • Simply being there as a comforting presence sometimes communicates better than any words.

For more dementia communication tips, or to learn more about becoming part of our caregiving team as a trained dementia caregiver, contact our CNA and HHA school at (925) 297-2676 any time.