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How to Communicate with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

There’s no doubt that individuals directly suffering from Alzheimer’s experience daily struggles and challenges. This disease is extremely damaging to one’s independence and overall quality of life. With that being said, there are also millions of friends and family members who continually suffer as they tend to the needs of their loved ones.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, they watch their loved one deteriorate in front of their eyes. Since cognitive functioning is highly impaired, communication can become increasingly difficult. Here are some key tips to maintain a positive relationship and appropriately tend to their needs.

Tips When Communicating to a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

As your loved one’s symptoms worsen, they may have a hard time expressing their thoughts and regulating their emotions. This can make communication challenging and can affect one’s basic needs. Here are some key DO’s and DONT’s to guide you.


  • Speak slowly
  • Say short sentences that involve little explanation
  • Repeat instructions
  • Allow a lot of time for comprehension, don’t expect them to process information as quickly as they once did
  • Do not insist if they’re not responding, try again later
  • Go with the flow
  • Remain cheerful and encourage them
  • Avoid confrontation, leave the room if necessary
  • Practice forgiveness


  • Argue
  • Try to reason
  • Take things personally
  • Remind the individual they forget

Although your loved one may be diminishing in terms of cognitive functioning, but respect is essential. Do not speak to them using ‘baby talk’ or don’t talk about them as if they’re not there. To show them that you’re connected, maintain eye contact and speak clearly. As mentioned, short sentences tend to yield the best results, offering yes or no questions as their disease progresses.

Some days, you may feel frustrated and that’s normal. If you are feeling this way, don’t react in front of your loved one. Remember, their problematic behaviors are a symptom of their disease. You should not take anything personal and try to remain as calm as possible. Arguing and confrontation only elevated stress levels for both you and your loved one.

If you’re really struggling to connect, use visual cues. This can be highly effective, as you use gestures and various cues to increase their level of understanding. A classic example is using the toilet. Instead of asking them if they need to use the washroom, physically take them and show them the toilet.

At the end of the day, every individual is different which is why you should work closely with their doctor, adjusting your plan of action as time progresses. The most critical thing to remember is that they’re not acting like this on purpose and that they still respond to affection. Be patient and ensure that your loved one feels secure and safe. In doing so, you can actually improve certain symptoms, such as sundowning and anxiety.


Alz. (2015). Communication Tips & Techniques. Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/texascapital/in_my_community_14326.asp

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