Ric Cavanagh - Certified Alzheimer’s Homecare Trainer

Each week we will be featuring a question and answer with our Director of Staff Development, Ric Cavanagh, M.S.W., about Alzheimer’s disease and what to do when your elderly parent is diagnosed. Keep an eye out every Tuesday for Ric’s Alzheimer’s Q&A.

Have a question for Ric? Visit our “Contact Us” page to submit your question and Ric’s response will be posted on the EasyLiving blog.

Q: What are some tips for communicating with a loved one with Alzheimer’s?

A: Always remain calm. Don’t be confrontational.

Ask yourself: How would I feel if I was developing signs of Alzheimer’s disease? Then use this insight to select the most helpful words and phrases to talk to your loved ones.

  • Always remain supportive. Use humor whenever possible.  Laugh with them (not at them) when they forget something. (“Another Senior moment!”)
  • Get the whole family on the same page. This can be difficult.
  • With siblings often out of town, living in many different places, there are often disagreements over what is best for Mom or Dad. You may have to work through some tough issues of sibling rivalry, stemming from when you were kids.  Often, the child who still lives in town with Mom or Dad gets blamed for what is happening. Or, the out of town siblings don’t believe what he or she is saying about the parent’s condition.
  • Educate yourself about the disease. Have your Mom or Dad read about their condition if they are still unable to understand. The Alzheimer’s Association is a wonderful resource. There are many great self help books that you can read that are based on other people’s experience in dealing with Alzheimer’s disease (both for themselves or with their loved ones).
  • Join support groups in your community. These groups often provide guest speakers on the subject as well as giving you personal support. These groups help you to recognize that you and your family are not the only people in the world dealing with this issue.
  • Continue to show your love for Mom and Dad. Stress that you understand their concerns, their fears, etc.
  • Finally, as the disease progresses, don’t take Mom or Dad’s comments personally. They can do or say extremely hurtful things, and this can be painful for you and your family. Just remember that it is most likely the disease talking, not your parent. Remember the way he or she was before the disease took hold.