Effective Communication Strategies for Alzheimer’s Caregivers Program Recap

Thank you to Nicolette Vasco from the Alzheimer’s Association for her talk Effective Communication Strategies for Alzheimer’s Caregivers.  Alzheimer’s is a very complex disease, affecting each person, and those close to them, differently.  People with Alzheimer’s will rely more and more on their caregivers as the disease progress and it is important for caregivers to be able to communicate, whether verbally, physically, visually, in order to help their loved one, even in the most mundane of tasks.  The following information is broken down into the 3 stages of Alzheimer’s (early, middle, and late):

  • Communication in the Early Stage
    • Changes that may occur
      • difficulty finding the right words or taking longer to speak or respond
      • struggling withing decision-making or problem-solving
    • How to connect
      • Ask directly with how to help with communication
      • keep sentences clear and straightforward
      • Leave plenty of time for conversations and include the person in conversations that affect him or her
    • Things to keep in mind
      • avoid making assumptions about the person
      • communicate in the most comfortable way for the person (phone, in-person, text-based such as email)
      • Be honest, stay connected, and laugh with each other
  • Communication in the Middle Stage
    • Changes that may occur
      • using familiar words repeatedly
      • inventing new words (hand clock instead of watch)
      • easily losing train of thought
      • communicating through behaviors more often than words
    • How to connect
      • Approach
        • approach the person gently, from the front, and use names to identify you and the person
        • maintain eye contact and remain at eye-level
        • avoid criticizing, scolding, and arguing
        • Take your time
      • Join the person’s reality
        • assess their needs
        • confirm you understand their concerns
        • provide a brief answer
        • respond to the emotions behind the statement (they may be angry because they are really afraid of being alone)
      • Keep it slow and basic
        • use short sentences and basic words
        • speak slowly and clearly
        • make sure only one person is speaking
        • limit distractions such as television noise
        • be patient
      • Give multiple cues
        • provide visual cues and gestures, but avoid sudden movement
        • write things down
        • put answers into your questions
        • turn negatives into positives
        • avoid quizzing
  • Communication in the  Late Stage
    • Changes that may occur
      • communication is reduced to a few words or sounds
      • similar responses to familiar words or phrases
    • How to connect
      • listen for expressions of pain and respond promptly
      • help the person feel safe and happy
      • bring respect to each conversation and keep talking to them
      • communicate using all 5 senses
        • touch
          • feel different fabrics
          • give lotion hand massages
          • visit with animals
          • hands-based arts and crafts such as sculpting
          • hold the person’s hand or stroke their arm or back
          • brush their hair
        • sight
          • watch videos of favorite subjects
          • view photos that resonate with the person
          • sit outdoors or go somewhere such as an aquarium
          • paint with watercolors
        • sound
          • listen to familiar music or recordings of nature
          • listen to songs or speech in their native language
          • read them books or the newspaper
          • your voice may be soothing and comforting to them even if they cannot remember you all the time
        • smell
          • herbs or spices
          • cotton balls dipped in essential oils
          • cut fresh flowers
          • fragrant hand lotions
          • cook and feed them foods that smell good
        • taste
          • cook favorite foods, which may encourage them to eat more
          • home-baked goods
          • flavored drinks to ensure they are staying hydrated

You can download of copy of the presentation at https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Effective-Communication-Strategies-Presentation.pdf.  Please visit the Alzheimer’s Association for more information on all aspects of the disease.  If you need immediate help, please contact their support line 24/7 at 1-800-272-3900.

About Andrew Dauphinee

Education and learning are passions of mine. Lifelong learning is a core part of who I am and I strive to pass that desire for information on to everyone I meet. As the Instruction and Outreach Librarian, it is my goal to provide quality, informative, and relevant programming to meet the diverse needs of our patrons. Please contact me regarding programming at adauphinee@njstatelib.org.