Dear Donna:

My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. At first the changes were small and easy to navigate. She was a little forgetful, so we learned to write everything down for her. She also had trouble with tasks like writing checks and grocery lists. Between my mom and I, we were able to cover those challenges.

In the last year, however, my grandma’s disease has advanced and it’s tough to communicate with her. She’s always been an important part of my life, and I need to find ways to maintain our connection. I believe she needs it too.

Do you have any tips to make communication easier? I don’t want to overwhelm her with constant chattering, but I do want to help her feel wanted and needed.


Mary in Williamsburg, MI

Tips for Communicating with a Senior Who Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Mary:

This comes up often when I’m helping families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s in their search for specialized dementia care. Both written and verbal communication skills are impacted by the disease, sometimes even in the early stages. It’s frustrating for the senior and those who love them.

I can offer a few tips that might make it easier for you to have a nice conversation with your grandmother:

  • Control the environment: Find a quiet, calm place for the two of you during your visits. Adults with Alzheimer’s often have trouble processing an overly hectic environment. Many struggle to concentrate when their environment is loud or busy, and that can lead to anxiety and agitation. Sit together in a quiet corner. Turn the television off.
  • Stay positive: While it can be difficult to witness the changes Alzheimer’s causes in a loved one, do your best to stay positive. Be mindful of your expressions and body language. Try to smile and project a cheerful disposition.
  • Be patient: If your grandmother still has some verbal skills but takes a little longer to get words out, be patient and don’t interrupt. Don’t rush her or talk over her. If it becomes obvious that she needs a little prompting to avoid getting too upset, do so in a kind, conversational way. Resist the urge to take over completely.
  • Talk slowly: Many of us speak too quickly or use a lot of slang in our language. For someone with memory impairment, that can be difficult to understand. Try to slow down and speak clearly. Keep sentences brief. These all make it easier for a person with Alzheimer’s to follow along with the conversation.

I hope these tips help you, Mary. Please feel free to contact the nearest Heritage community if you have more questions or to learn more about specialized dementia care.

Kind regards,