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Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Feb 20, 2011 05:32PM ● By Erin Frisch

Dr. Robert B. Santulli

Dr. Robert B. Santulli shares tips with families and caregivers

The following list of dos and don’ts for communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease should be helpful for the Alzheimer’s family. These tips are from The Alzheimer’s Family: Working with Caregivers to Help Them Cope (to be published later this year by W. W. Norton) by Dr. Robert B. Santulli of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.


  1. Do use techniques to attract and maintain the person’s attention.
  2. Do make all communications short, simple, and clear.
  3. Do identify yourself to person with Alzheimer’s disease if there appears to be any doubt he or she knows who you are.
  4. Do call the person by name.
  5. Do speak slowly.
  6. Do use closed-ended questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No.”
  7. Do find a different way to say the same thing if it wasn’t understood the first time(s).
  8. Do use distraction, partial truths, or even “fiblets” when necessary if telling the whole truth will upset the person with dementia.
  9. Do use repetition as much as necessary.
  10. Do be aware that the tone in which something is said may be as important, or more important, than the actual content.
  1. Don’t ever say: Do you remember? Did you forget…? How could you not know that? Try to remember!
  2. Don’t ask questions that directly challenge short-term memory.
  3. Don’t talk in paragraphs.
  4. Don’t say anything that points out the person’s memory difficulty.
  5. Don’t talk in front of the person as if he or she were not present.
  6. Don’t use lots of pronouns.
  7. Don’t use slang, unfamiliar words, or jargon.
  8. Don’t use patronizing language or “baby talk.”
  9. Don’t use sarcasm, irony, or similar forms of banter.
  10. Don’t be impatient.

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