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Respecting the Person With Alzheimer's Disease

It is important to keep in mind that the person with Alzheimer's Disease needs to be treated with dignity and respect.

Make sure you explain the person's cultural or religious background, and any rules and customs, to anyone from a different background so that they can behave accordingly. These may include:

  • respectful forms of address
  • what they can eat
  • religious observances, such as prayer and festivals
  • particular clothing or jewelry that they (or those in their presence) should or should not wear
  • any forms of touch or gestures that are considered disrespectful
  • ways of undressing
  • ways of dressing the hair
  • how they wash or use the toilet.

Acting with courtesy

Many people with Alzheimer's have a fragile sense of self-worth; it's especially important that people continue to treat them with courtesy, however advanced their Alzheimer's.

  • Be kind and reassuring to the person you're caring for without talking down to them.
  • Never talk over their head as if they are not there - especially if you're talking about them. Include them in conversations.
  • Avoid scolding or criticizing them - this will make them feel small.
  • Look for the meaning behind their words, even if they don't seem to be making much sense. Whatever the person is saying, they are usually trying to communicate with you about how they feel.
  • Try to imagine how you would like to be spoken to if you were in their position.

Respecting privacy and Alzheimer's

    • Try to make sure that the person's right to privacy is respected.
    • Suggest to other people that they should always knock on the person's bedroom door before entering.
    • If they need help with intimate personal activities, such as washing or using the toilet, do this sensitively and make sure the door is kept closed if other people are around.

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Offer simple choices and Alzheimer's

  • Make sure that, whenever possible, you inform and consult the person about matters that concern them. Give them every opportunity to make their own choices.
  • Always explain what you are doing and why. You may be able to judge the person's reaction from their expression and body language.
  • People with Alzheimer's can find choice confusing, so keep it simple. Phrase questions so that they only need a 'yes' or 'no' answer, such as 'Would you like to wear your blue jumper today?' rather than 'Which jumper would you like to wear today?'

Expressing feelings and Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's affects people's thinking, reasoning and memory, but the person's feelings remain intact. A person with Alzheimer's will probably be sad or upset at times. In the earlier stages, the person may want to talk about their anxieties and the problems they are experiencing.

  • Try to understand how the person feels.
  • Make time to offer them support, rather than ignoring them or 'jollying them along'.
  • Don't brush their worries aside, however painful they may be. Listen and show them that you are there for them.

Tips for making the person feel good about themselves

  • Avoid situations in which the person is bound to fail, as this can be humiliating. Look for tasks they can still manage and activities they enjoy.
  • Give them plenty of encouragement. Let them do things at their own pace and in their own way.
  • Do things with them, rather than for them, to help them retain their independence.
  • Break activities down into small steps so that they feel a sense of achievement, even if they can only manage part of a task.
  • Our self respect is often bound up with the way we look. Encourage the person to take a pride in their appearance, and compliment them on how they look.

Sources:

  • UK Alzheimer's Society - Carers' Advice Sheet 524

next: Respect and Caring for Someone with Alzheimer'

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 30). Respecting the Person With Alzheimer's Disease, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/caregivers/respecting-the-person-with-alzheimers-disease

Last Updated: July 23, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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