ALZHEIMER'S: NO MORE BABY TALK
How to Speak to Those With Alzheimer's
"Talking down" to patients gets them riled up. Alzheimer's patients may not be entirely aware of their surroundings, butthey know when they're being insulted —and they don't like it.
Eavesdropping at a nursing home for people with moderate dementia, researchers found patients more likely to become agitated and uncooperative when they were spoken to as if they were babies. Reactions included turning away, grabbing, hitting or kicking, saying no, and crying out. On the other hand, patients were easier to work with when nurses used "normal adult-to-adult kind of talk."
"People who have dementia are trying to maintain their sense of being a person," says lead researcher Kristine Williams, an associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing. "When someone is talking to them like they are an infant, that might be distressing." Williams' research was presented at a recent international conference sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association.
Caregivers for the elderly or infirm, whether lay family members or trained professionals, frequently lapse into what experts call "elderspeak," she explains. They use shortened sentences, repetition, inappropriate terms of endearment—such as "sweetie" or"dear"—and a controlling tone of voice." They also tend to alter the pronouns, so they might say, ‘Are we ready for our bath?' That really gives the message that the person isn't able to act independently, instead of saying, "Are you ready for me to help you with your bath?' Williams explains."