Monday, September 6, 2010

How to Communicate With a Husband Who Has Dementia

Link to Ten Tips in red bold are from the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The ten tips are followed by my comments.

1. Make eye contact. My Sweetheart was watching "Fireproof" this Labor Day. We own that Christian DVD about marriage. I was sitting here at the computer when he said from the next room "I love you." Then I made it a point to go to the next room, look and him and say  that I love him very much and I am in this "for better for worse, for richer or poorer, 'til death us do part." He smiled back and continued watching "Fireproof". In fact he watched it twice today. We both had tears in our eyes during it.
2. Be at their level. He loves it when I sit by his side while he is watching TV which he does constantly.
3. Tell them what you are going to do before you do it. However, I am learning to write things down on the calendar. When I was teaching a class at night, I told him there was a frozen dinner for him. When I got home at 9 pm, he hadn't eaten and didn't remember what I had said. "What is the plan for dinner?" he wanted to know. The next night I wrote down fozen dinner on the calendar. We have a large calendar from FlyLady where I can write a lot down. I think this also means in the present--for example I say I am making breakfast and that is his clue to put in his teeth. When he doesn't pick up on this, I give him Ensure with his morning pills which doesn't involve his false teeth.
4. Speak calmly. Sometimes in his anger (part of the disease) I get accused of starting an argument. I let somethings go now and do not argue. I try to keep calm.
5. Speak slowly. I tend to speak slowly anyway from my years of teaching. However, a message on the answering machine is often delivered too quickly for him and he will ask me to listen to that message.
6. Speak in short sentences. He keeps teaching me this when I try to rattle off too much.
7. Only ask one question at a time. I really do frustrate him at times with my verbosity!
8. Don’t say “remember”. "Many times they will not be able to do so, and you are just pointing out to them their shortcomings. That is insulting, and can cause anger and/or embarrassment." Absolutely! I want to build him up, not point out his disabilities.
9. Turn negatives into positives. I remember when I sounded like I was nagging,  DH told me to not nag. His next sentence was asking me what he was supposed to do! I realized I have to be so careful how I phrase things. I am still working on this one.
10. Do not argue with them. I have to let my DH spout off about the bad drivers and traffic he sees. It will do no good to tell him to calm down, that we will get there when we get there. He is impatient about the driving of others, but is still driving safely now. Spout off all you want, Sweetheart! I can always say, "I see your point," even if I disagree.

Today DH said several times, "It's not fun getting old." Today I read in The Tampa Tribune about new research at the institute where we have our 10 AM appointment tomorrow morning.


  1. Hi Carol.....You have so much good information here!!! You're a good researcher....

    Speaking calmly and simply..... really speaks to me. If I sound upset, David gets upset... If I make too many statements or more than one question..... forget it.... he's lost.

    I'm concerned about your husband driving.....I say this because David had a wreck before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I was in China with my daughter, and when I returned he told me he'd totaled his car, but when questioned how it happened, he couldn't remember or explain. Big flags went up for me....the beginning. Thankfully no injuries... The perception and understanding starts changing with Alzheimer's.....

    Please know that you all are in my thoughts and prayers for the doctor's appointment tomorrow..
    We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.... Phil...4:13

  2. Thanks for your encouragement, Dolores, my new blogging friend and adventurer in this journey! What an experience for you to return from an exciting trip and then realize your husband's memory problems!

    Usually I am with my husband now when he drives. I am thinking that his doctor will tell him he can't drive any more.