10 Tips for Talking About Alzheimer's


Deciding when to tell and when not to tell a loved one that they have Alzheimer's can be a difficult task. Each person and each journey is different, you will likely go through a period of trial and error. Sometimes you may step on your loved one's toes, that is okay and very normal. Here are 10 Tips for talking about Alzheimer's from Avita Program Director, Molly Nute at Avita of Stroudwater:

  1. Talk with doctors, social workers and others who work with individuals who have Alzheimer’s to plan an approach for discussing the diagnosis. Consider a “family conference” to tell the person about the diagnoses. They may not remember the conversation, but WILL remember that people cared enough to come together.
  2. Shape the discussion to fit the individual’s emotional state, medical condition and ability to remember & make decisions.
  3. Pick the best time to talk to the individual - people with Alzheimer’s may be more receptive to new information at different times of the day.
  4. Don’t provide too much information. Listen to the person carefully, they often signal the amount of information they can deal with through their questions & reactions.
  5. Reassure your loved one. Express your commitment to help and give them support.  Let the person know that you will do all that you can to keep their life fulfilling.
  6. Be open to the person’s need to talk about the diagnosis and their emotions.
  7. Look for nonverbal signs of sadness, anger or anxiety and respond with love & reassurance.
  8. As Alzheimer's progresses, which also means intensification of the dementia symptoms, you may notice that your loved one forgets about their diagnosis. In this scenario, allow your loved one to “lead in the dance," don't remind them of their diagnosis.
  9. At later stages, your loved one may still sometimes ask questions about what is going on with them. It is important to handle these instances with a soft touch and give as little information as possible to satisfy them. Over explaining can lead to confusion, frustration and agitation. This is where “therapeutic fiblets” may come in.
  10. Over time your loved one will enter what could be called their "happy place." They slow down and eventually stop asking questions. Once your loved one enters the "happy place," it is no longer necessary to address their diagnosis. To handle confusion, repetitive questions, uncertainty about any other issues that arise, it is better to use alternate techniques, such as redirecting to an activity or reminiscing about positive experiences in their past.

You may want to protect the person by withholding information, but your loved one is an adult with the right to know the truth.  Sometimes it can be a relief to hear the diagnosis, especially if the person had suspected he or she has Alzheimer’s disease.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the wonderful way of life at one of our Avita communities contact us today for more information about supportive services in one of Northbridge Companies' Avita Communities.