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Communication with a loved one with a memory disorder can be challenging. Nevertheless, there are strategies to help communicate with them effectively. Speak in a positive, uplifting tone. Smile. Allow yourself to be optimistic with them. Use gentle words and gestures.

Many topics may be difficult. But there are many topics you can discuss with your loved ones if they have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Try questions like:

  • Do you want to watch a comedy or romance movie?
  • Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream?

Use easy to understand words and keep sentences short. Speak slowly, clearly, in an even tone and use simpler words — one and two-syllable words is better to help them stay on track of what you are saying.

Try to always use proper names and nouns. Instead of saying “Did you see where he went?’ Say, “Did you see where Andy went?” Or if you are talking about a past experience, say “Did you go to the Statue of Liberty with dad while you were in New York?” instead of saying, “What did you do when you were on that trip?”

Be patient. You may want to help provide words that your loved one is struggling to find. It’s alright to help them occasionally, but not too much. It could keep your loved one from trying to carry on a conversation and make them depend on you to tell the story on their behalf.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Try not to correct words or inaccuracies. For people with memory problems, it can often be difficult for them to find the correct word to say. So, be careful and try not to nitpick them on accuracy. If they asked for honey and are pointing to maple syrup, hand them the honey. Correcting them may make them anxious or frustrated.

Put aggressive behavior on hold and try again later. When a loved one with a memory disorder is communicating vigorously, respect that communication. If they are kicking or hitting you because they don’t want to take a shower, respect that and try another day.

It’s important to know how to communicate with a loved one with a memory disorder, so you don’t unintentionally upset them. When words fail, you can count on body language. Believe it or not, that can speak volumes! Holding hands or hugging your loved ones can keep them focused and engaged.