Communication skills can ease conflicts

Many behaviors that cause stress among families, nursing staff, and Alzheimer’s patients actually result from a failure to understand how these patients process information, says Cindy Stinson, MSN, RNC, CNS, a consultant with Health Education Resources and an instructor with Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. She offers these tips for communicating with Alzheimer’s patients:

• Avoid open-ended questions.

• Limit choices.

• Minimize the use of pronouns. Instead, repeat the patient’s name.

• Break down tasks into single steps. Give only one step at a time, rather than a string of instructions.

• Repeat yourself, if necessary.

"An Alzheimer’s patient may forget almost immediately what you’ve told them before. You can’t tell them: Stand up. Go into the bathroom. Take off your clothes. Turn on the shower, and get into it," Stinson says. "If you get a call from a nurse or caregiver complaining that your client is uncooperative, suggest that the nurse or caregiver break down all instructions into single steps."

(Editor’s note: For more on how to reduce negative behaviors and alleviate stress in Alzheimer’s patients, see stories, pp. 152-153.)