Interacting with Someone Experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease

What Makes Us Different
March 15, 2021
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Interacting with Someone Experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease

It can be difficult to know how to interact with somebody experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease. In some ways, how you interact shouldn’t change! They are still the same person you know and love and should be treated with dignity and respect. However, there are some things you should keep in mind when you do encounter somebody experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease.

  1. Don’t argue with or correct the person experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease. Step into their world for a moment and accept their view on the things – no questions asked. If your mom thinks she is going to Greece in 2 weeks, talk with her about how exciting that will be, and ask her what she will do when she is there. Don’t try and convince her that she isn’t actually going to Greece.
  2. Try to avoid saying, “I told you that already” or asking, “Don’t you remember?” This can create feelings of guilt and shame because, no, they probably don’t remember. Instead, accept the blame yourself. You might say something like, “I must have forgotten to tell you that. I am so sorry!”
  3. It’s okay to help a person experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease find the words to express their thoughts and feelings but give them plenty of time to find the words on their own first. Don’t try to complete their thought or fill in the blank. While it may be well-intentioned, it could act as a small reminder that their mind isn’t as sharp as it once was. Allow them to continue to express their thoughts and feelings as best as they can, even if it takes a little extra time.
  4. Don’t use “baby talk” when speaking to the person experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a grown adult you’re speaking to. Avoid using words that may belittle them or portray that you are superior. Be respectful of them and the years of life experience they have.
  5. Avoid talking about them like they aren’t there. As the disease progresses, keep them involved in the decision-making process and consider their opinions. Allowing them to be involved will keep their dignity a little bit more intact and give them a sense of control over what they are going through. 

These are just a few tips on how to interact with somebody who is experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease. It is important to remember that each person is different and will experience the disease differently. While you can’t control how the disease progresses in your loved one, you can control your reaction to it. Be patient and practice forgiveness often. While it may be frustrating for you to experience these changes, imagine how they might be feeling. These changes may cause them to feel confused or aggravated. They might feel scared or alone when they don’t recognize the people or environment around them. So many things are changing right in front of them, and it may be overwhelming if they feel like they can’t keep up. Walk alongside them during this process. Be supportive and make them feel safe and comfortable. Be a consistent and reliable source of peace for them.

– Amy Kay Dillon

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