Written By:  Gayle Horton

1. Make sure that the environment is as quiet as possible to avoid interference especially from competing conversations and other noise. The quiet environment helps to improve the older adult’s perceptual processing of speech and recognition of spoken words without so many distractions.

2. Maintain eye contact and present information clearly in as few words as possible. Long and complex sentences challenge the older adult’s memory because understanding the entire sentence forces them to place information in their short term memory which may be already compromised.

3. Refrain from looking distracted by glancing at your watch or looking impatient, because you send a message that they are not important. Your nonverbal behavior can send the right message that they are important to you by using good eye contact.

4. If the person has a hearing problem, increase the volume of your voice only slightly, the louder your voice becomes, the more likely they will think you are angry. The person may not be having a hearing problem as much as a “processing” problem.

5. What do you tell someone after a recent visit to the doctor? “You have arthritis of the hip which is making it painful for you to walk and may eventually require hip replacement surgery if we cannot control you pain with medications.”

6. You might try a different approach which may help them to understand. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may only process every third word of what you may be trying to tell them, just imagine how your statement may sound; “You of which it painful you and require surgery cannot pain!”

7. Try saying; “The doctor gave you some medicine for your hip pain.” They may only hear; “Doctor, medicine, hip,” but it may help them to process what you are trying to tell them without frightening them.

8. Visual aids and hand gestures often communicate as well as words, because they are not as confusing.

9. Resist the temptations to fire off a series of yes and no questions when you visit. Try saying something open ended like; “Tell me about your day?” When the person begins to talk, focus on them and maintain eye contact. Try to read their nonverbal behavior and repeat what they have said by filling in the blanks if the sentences are not complete. Do not try to correct them if they make mistakes because they may stop talking for fear of making a mistake. The Journey Remembered DVD’s may help you find a way to communicate with them because the DVD creates access to deep rooted memories while using visual cues.

10. Use humor and a direct communication style with caution when interacting with older adults. Provide statements that sound encouraging and affirming when dealing with some with Alzheimer’s. The tone of your voice and holding their hand can help to calm someone before they become angry. 11. It is important to validate what the person may tell you even if it is not entirely clear. You may say something like “It sounds like you were not happy?” Be careful to not agree on every statement they make because their impaired thinking may tell them “yes” the staff members have been mean to them. It is better to use distraction techniques and take their mind away from their negative thoughts.