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How to Talk to Someone with Alzheimer’s: Short, Direct Sentences

Communication changes when someone has Alzheimer’s

When someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia, changes in their brain cause a decline in their ability to listen and respond to normal conversation.

So, that might leave you wondering how to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s.

It turns out that speaking in short, direct sentences is a way to communicate that’s more comfortable for them. 

With less information to process, they’re more likely to understand what you’re saying and respond appropriately.

We explain why this technique works and share 4 real-life examples of how to communicate kindly while using fewer words.


Why do short sentences work better in dementia?

Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the brain’s ability to process and retrieve information. 

That can make it very difficult for someone with dementia to listen, understand, and respond appropriately to normal conversation.

That’s why using short, direct sentences with only one thought per sentence is recommended.

It makes it easier for someone with dementia to understand what you’re saying. Thoughts that are long or complex can be overwhelming because it’s too much to process.

This technique might feel strange at first because we’re used to using friendly conversation to fill the silence, let someone know what’s happening, or to show that we care. 

But combining fewer words with a warm and positive tone will be less frustrating for seniors with dementia and is just as kind.

How to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s: 4 real-life examples

Each person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is different and will have a different level of cognitive impairment. 

Use these 4 examples as a starting point and experiment to find what works best for both your older adult and you in different situations.

Example 1: It’s time for your older adult to use the restroom DO say: It’s time to go to the bathroom now.

DON’T say: It’s been about an hour since you last visited the bathroom so why don’t we go to the bathroom and you can give it a try. Ok? How does that sound? Do you want to go to the bathroom now?

Example 2: It’s time for your older adult to have lunch DO say: Mmmmm, it’s time to eat spaghetti!…(pause)…Let’s go to the kitchen.

DON’T say: Are you hungry? It’s lunch time and I thought you’d enjoy one of your favorites – spaghetti.​ Let’s go to the kitchen so you can eat. After lunch, we’ll go outside for a walk so you can get some fresh air. How does that sound?

Example 3: You’re taking your older adult to a doctor appointment DO say: It’s time to go out…(pause)…Here’s your jacket…(pause)…Let’s get into the car.

DON’T say: We’re going to see Dr. Lee today. She’s going to check to see how you’re doing with those new medications. Remember how we had to reschedule the appointment from last month? I’m glad she had an opening this soon. You know what? It’s a little chilly today, why don’t you put on your jacket while I get the keys and then we’ll go out to the car together.

Example 4: A family member or friend has come to visit DO say: It’s Mike, your brother…(pause)…He’s come to say hello!

DON’T say: Oh look, you have a visitor! Do you know who that is? Mike was just here last week. Don’t you remember?

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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