Health Watch - Alzheimer's Disease: Conversation

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about Alzheimer’s disease. While researchers are working to find treatments for the disease, patients and their loved ones have to learn to cope with its effects. Communicating with a person who has lost memory and brain function can be a challenge, but taking your time can help.

When you’re talking to someone with memory impairment, start by simplifying your questions and paying attention to facial expression and body language. Kristin Martin-Cook, clinical trials coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. Instead of asking open-ended questions, present a few options. Use short sentences and use gestures when appropriate. Give directions one step at a time. Maintain eye contact while talking, and touch the person to focus the person’s attention. Be aware of your own non-verbal cues, like tone of voice, and don’t criticize the person’s speech or point out memory gaps.

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November 2010


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