Critter Corner: Learning to “Speak Alzheimer’s”

Dear Angel,

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. She used to be a college professor and is a brilliant woman. I began noticing that when someone hears of her Alzheimer’s, they ask me questions that she could very well still answer for herself. How can I convey to others that my mother can still speak for and advocate for herself? Also, when she can no longer speak for herself, how will I be able to communicate with her?


Sy Lenst


Dear Sy,

Millions of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are intelligent people, like your mother, who are still actively advocating for their own rights and needs. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the disease and, therefore, don’t know how to listen to people with Alzheimer’s.

According to a recent article in NextAvenue, “just like anyone else with unique challenges and special needs, people with Alzheimer’s need to be able to communicate their needs, wants and fears without being judged.” The article states that “(m)any continue to advocate only to be ignored, until it’s too late and the disease begins quieting their “voice” and ultimately steals their ability to form words and communicate verbally.”

A solution to people not listening to your mother now could be simply not answering for her. Defer to her and wait for her to answer for herself, or say “Why don’t you ask her?”

When your mother is no longer able to communicate her thoughts verbally, it will be important to learn to listen with your eyes, ears, and heart. In addition, it will be helpful to learn to “speak Alzheimer’s.”

Speaking Alzheimer’s

During a free, one-hour, interactive workshop on the Together in This Website, tips & strategies are offered to help caregivers and loved ones have successful communication with persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The following is discussed during the workshop:

·     The relationship between the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease;

·     How communication is affected by Alzheimer’s disease;

·     Communication strategies that focus on the person and not the disease;

·     Why a person-center approach to care improves communication;

·     The “step-by-step” communication technique.

You can watch the 1 hour workshop or listen to the audio file by clicking here, and hopefully it will help you to communicate with your mother when the time comes that she can no longer speak for herself.

Hope this is helpful!

Meows and kisses,


Print This Page
About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.