Meaningful conversations with Alzheimer’s patients...

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Posted on by Gary Joseph LeBlanc

Communicating with Alzheimer's patients can be a difficult task to master, especially in the latter stages. As patients advance further into the disease, it will become even more difficult for them to communicate through conventional methods.

However, through trial and error, we have, thankfully, learned many forms of speech therapy that can enhance conversation.

I have discovered that telling them stories of their past is a great way to spark a conversation. Tell them a story that they used to recite to you as you were growing up.

Remember the old saying, "Listen to your elders?" Well, if you were paying attention, you should have an abundance of yarns to spin.

These tales will have a special meaning to them. Even if you tell the story wrong and you get corrected, you have successfully induced a conversation.

Hopefully, by knocking off some of the dusty cobwebs from those pathways traveling through their brain, you may open their mind's eye, allowing them the ability to tell you a story you never heard before.

Keep them communicating. This will help prolong their alertness and increase their quality of life.

Sadly, people with Alzheimer's disease will arrive at a point where they no longer recall the facts of their own lives. Their long-term memory will start slipping away.

As a caregiver you should, in a sense, become a speech therapist. Keep them talking. When they decelerate down to two- or three-word sentences, everything else also seems to begin to snowball downhill from there. I've known patients that were actually gone within six months from that point.

Be creative; do whatever it takes to keep them communicating. Whether it's playing cards with them or having a sing-a-long, if you find something that works, stick with it for as long as possible.

Try sitting down with them and slowly turn the pages of a photo album which contain pictures from their past. Ask then who's who in each picture. It doesn't matter if their answer is wrong, what's important is that they're responding.

It takes a lot of energy, learning and patience to be a caregiver, but we can enrich the lives of these loved ones by telling them one story at a time.

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2 Responses to Meaningful conversations with Alzheimer’s patients

  1. Homecare.com says:

    I’ve used a number of your suggestions when talking to my mom who has dementia. Getting her to talk about her grandkids is usually a good way to get her chatting more. “Talking to Alzheimer’s” by Claudia J. Strauss is a great resource for anyone caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

  2. Rick Lauber says:

    Hi -

    Great points, Gary! I completely agree with your comment about misidentifying people in photographs. As a former co-caregiver for my father (who had Alzheimer’s disease …), I found that correcting or arguing with someone in this state causes undue frustration (with all parties) and is absolutely pointless, as well.

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