How to Improve Your Interaction with the Patient

How to Improve Your Interaction with the Patient
When you enter the world of an Alzheimer’s sufferer, just play along. If that means adding a bit of fiction or incorporating some dramatic acting to your daily regimen, then feel free to do so in order to help preserve the person’s dignity. When you undermine, contradict or challenge an Alzheimer’s delusion, you make the sufferer feel insecure and threatened. The greatest heartbreak is that you rob this person of his or her dignity.

People afflicted with Alzheimer’s are highly emotional and can switch from laughter and affection to anger and sadness in a moment. We must remember that an Alzheimer’s patient is truly in the moment. Make the moment as loving as you can.

It is very important for us to keep in mind that we must preserve the dignity of the Alzheimer’s patient and not embarrass the person. Try to be positive and upbeat because your emotions are absorbed by the person in your care. And remember to hug and touch the patient a lot! Body language becomes a powerful tool of communication.

When you play along with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease, you ease up on him or her by suspending judgment and childlike scolding; best of all you ease up on yourself, the worn-out caregiver. You need to find a way to reduce stress levels. By creating a calmer, more serene environment both of you feel better, act better and interrelate better.

Here are some tips:
  • Keep your communication simple and to the point. Emphasize in clear language what the Alzheimer’s sufferer needs to do. Avoid open ended questions with multiple choices.
  • If the patient has lost something or claims someone stole a possession, don’t argue. Instead say, “Let’s go look for it together.”
  • Don’t overwhelm the patient with large groups of people. If you are entertaining, keep it small, short and simple.
  • Play upbeat music and songs from the person’s era. Music soothes the soul. Song memory lingers even in the later stages.
  • Be sensitive to the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t talk about him or her in the third person. Don’t talk on the phone for long periods of time ignoring the patient. This is insulting. I know that you crave stimulating conversation, wait for the person to nap.
  • Touch and hug the patient a lot. Offer frequent words of praise. Even if the person did something wrong, turn it around, so you can say what a good job he or she did - find a positive spin. Self-esteem is fragile.
  • Keep your patient active. Walking or cycling on a recumbent bicycle will help release tension and cheer up sad moments. He or she will be stronger and healthier. Remember that exercise stimulates and oxygenates the brain.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, and a personal trainer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB 1240AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit:

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