As part of World Alzheimer’s Month, we wanted to present an article that could help you be better equipped to approach someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Whether in a personal or professional context, in order to promote better interactions, it is important to consider a few aspects.
Here’s what we suggest:
1- First, approach the person without surprising them
- Approach the person while speaking to them with a soft voice
- Make sure you make eye contact with the person while maintaining it
- Slowly get closer to the person
2- Make sure you have their attention
- Minimize or eliminate surrounding noise
- Face the person while speaking to them
- If the person does not seem to want to interact with you, do not force them. Tell them you’ll come back later.
3- Keep in mind that you will have better results if you:
- Articulate while speaking slowly and gently
- Use short, simple sentences to state one instruction at a time
- Wait for them to react to what you say before continuing with the conversation or new instruction
4- If the person with the illness does not seem to understand what you are saying:
- Stay calm and try to simplify the statement or instruction
- Consider your non-verbal language. Can it help them understand you better?
- Gently touch the person on the arm to make sure you have their attention
5- Actively listen:
- Verbal communication can become difficult for someone with Alzheimer’s. Try to understand their emotions through gestures as well as the posture of your interlocutor.
- Be patient and allow the person you are talking to to complete their sentences or thoughts.
- Make sure you understand their message. By repeating keywords or summarizing in a simple way what they have told you, your interlocutor will feel listened to and encourage further conversation.
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease makes communication increasingly difficult. It is therefore important to have a good understanding of the impact that non-verbal language can have. Consider:
Taking someone’s hand shows affection without 50 words. When a person with Alzheimer’s has difficulty verbalizing their emotions, it is important to take note of the reactions that a touch can elicit (smile vs. discomfort) in order to respect their needs.
Pay attention to the distance you put between yourself and a person with the illness, along with the reactions it generates. Adapt as a result.
- Your posture
The posture you take when interacting with someone with Alzheimer’s can cause them to be alert or calm. A relaxed posture demonstrates without verbalizing, that everything is going well and that you are safe.
Use and interpret the gestures you make and those you receive. Does it invite them to continue the conversation or close it?
Lastly, in order to better equip yourself in order to promote a good interaction with a person with Alzheimer’s, we invite you to learn as much as possible about this disease and its different stages. A better understanding will allow you to adapt your approach and put into practice the above tips more easily.
Brenda Du Sault/Physical rehabilitation therapist