Oct 16, 2011

If You are Unhappy with the Doctors Communication with your Loved One with Dementia, Print This and Take it to the Next Appointment

Doctor, please start out by addressing the Alzheimer’s patient first.

By Carole Larkin
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Addressing a peron living with dementia directly shows respect.

If they are not able to answer the question, then turn to the caregiver who is with them.

Try to ask the Alzheimer’s patient first when you are asking simple (yes/no) questions.

Here are some additional tips which may make the visit easier on all concerned.

Suggestions include:

1. Make eye contact. Always approach them face-to-face and make eye contact. Use their name if you need to. It is vital that they actually see you and that their attention is focused on you. Read their eyes. Always approach from the front as approaching and speaking from the side or from behind can startle them.

2. Be at their level. Move your head to be at the same level as their head. Bend your knees or sit down to reach their level. Do not stand or hover over them – it is intimidating and scary. They can’t focus on you and what you are saying if they are focused on their fear.

3. Tell them what you are going to do before you do it. Particularly when you are going to touch them. They need to know what is coming first so that they don’t think that you are grabbing them.

4. Speak calmly. Always speak in a calm manner with an upbeat tone of voice. If you sound rushed or agitated, they will often mirror that feeling back to you and then some.

5. Speak slowly. Speak at one half of your normal speed when talking to them. Take a breath between each sentence. They cannot process words as fast as non-diseased people can. Give them a chance to catch up to your words.

6. Speak in short sentences. Speak in short direct sentences with only one idea to a sentence. Usually they can only focus on only one idea at a time.

7. Only ask one question at a time. Be patient. Give them time to answer it before you ask another question. They will try to answer both questions, fail and get frustrated.

8. Don’t say “remember”. Many times they will not be able to do so, and you are just pointing out to them their shortcomings. That is insulting, and can cause anger and/or embarrassment.

9. Be positive. For example say “We need to take some blood to check your level of ___. It will only take a minute and then you’ll be done here.” Be inclusive and don’t talk down to them as if they were a child. Respect the fact that they are an adult, and treat them as such.

10. Do not argue with them. Especially if they are not being compliant with your protocols. It gets you nowhere. Instead, validate their feelings, by saying” I see that you are angry (sad, upset, etc…). I will go see another patient but will return in a few minutes, then we can continue on. Leave the room and let them collect themselves. The may comply when you make the suggestion a second time, when they are calmer.

Carole Larkin MA,CMC,CAEd,QDCS,EICS,
is a Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room