Communication and Alzheimer’s

Trying to communicate with a person who has AD can be a challenge. Both understanding and being understood may be difficult.

  • Choose simple words and short sentences and use a gentle, calm tone of voice.
  • Avoid talking to the person with AD like a baby or talking about the person as if he or she weren’t there.
  • Minimize distractions and noise–such as the television or radio–to help the person focus on what you are saying.
  • Call the person by name, making sure you have his or her attention before speaking. 
  • Allow enough time for a response. Be careful not to interrupt.
  • If the person with AD is struggling to find a word or communicate a thought, gently try to provide the word he or she is looking for. 
  • Try to frame questions and instructions in a positive way.

Bathing and Alzheimer’s

While some people with AD don’t mind bathing, for others it is a frightening, confusing experience. Advance planning can help make bath time better for both of you. 

  • Plan the bath or shower for the time of day when the person is most calm and agreeable. Be consistent. Try to develop a routine.
  • Respect the fact that bathing is scary and uncomfortable for some people with AD. Be gentle and respectful. Be patient and calm.
  • Tell the person what you are going to do, step by step, and allow him or her to do as much as possible.
  • Prepare in advance. Make sure you have everything you need ready and in the bathroom before beginning. Draw the bath ahead of time.
  • Be sensitive to the temperature. Warm up the room beforehand if necessary and keep extra towels and a robe nearby. Test the water temperature before beginning the bath or shower.
  • Minimize safety risks by using a handheld showerhead, shower bench, grab bars, and nonskid bath mats. Never leave the person alone in the bath or shower.
  • Try a sponge bath. Bathing may not be necessary every day. A sponge bath can be effective between showers or baths.

Dressing and Alzheimer’s

For someone who has AD, getting dressed presents a series of challenges: choosing what to wear, getting some clothes off and other clothes on, and struggling with buttons and zippers. Minimizing the challenges may make a difference. 

  • Try to have the person get dressed at the same time each day so he or she will come to expect it as part of the daily routine. 
  • Encourage the person to dress himself or herself to whatever degree possible. Plan to allow extra time so there is no pressure or rush.
  • Allow the person to choose from a limited selection of outfits. If he or she has a favorite outfit, consider buying several identical sets.
  • Arrange the clothes in the order they are to be put on to help the person move through the process.
  • Provide clear, step-by-step instructions if the person needs prompting.
  • Choose clothing that is comfortable, easy to get on and off, and easy to care for. Elastic waists and Velcro enclosures minimize struggles with buttons and zippers.