Alzheimer’s changes the way we have to communicate with our loved ones suffering with this form of dementia. In early stages Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult to navigate the field of communication since your loved one may have moments of great clarity sprinkled in between the decline in memory. It’s important for your sake and the sake of your loved one to be able to communicate effectively.

Change the Way You Ask Questions

Open-ended questions can leave your loved one confused since they may not be able to recall an appropriate response. Instead, ask questions that gives them opportunity to answer with “yes”, “no”, or to choose between options. For example, instead of asking what they want to have for breakfast, you could ask, “Do you want eggs or pancakes for breakfast?” This gives them direction so they know how to answer and won’t become confused or agitated.

Keep Your Sentences Simple

Because it’s hard for someone in early stage Alzheimer’s to remember a long story or even a long sentence, keep it short. Use simple sentences and leave out any unnecessary details when telling stories. If you want to tell Grandma that you saw her old tennis buddy at the grocery store, leave out what aisle you were in, and the details of what you talked. Simply say that you saw her at the store and she said to tell your grandma hello.

Limit Distractions 

For someone with early stage Alzheimer’s, it can be hard to know where to focus attention. To minimize frustration, limit distractions. When having a conversation, turn off the TV or radio. When out and about, aim for places that aren’t too crowded. Without the excess distraction, they’re much more likely to be able to focus on your simple conversation.

Resist Correction and Arguments

If your loved one gets an important detail of their life wrong, you might be tempted to correct them, or to fill in the missing pieces. However, this can embarrass and leave them feeling even more confused. The confusion and embarrassment won’t help your loved one, and they aren’t forgetting on purpose. Just go with the flow and remember that their illness is what’s making them forget.

Putting these communication tips into practice will help you communicate with your loved one most effectively. Meeting them where they are will help you slow down and enjoy the time you have with your loved one in this season of their life.