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Alzheimer's Communication

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While doctors work to find a cure for Alzheimer's, there are things we can do now to help offset the heart-wrenching disease.  Robert Bazell reports on new methods that could help Alzheimer's patients communicate better with loved ones.

At dinner tables around the country, families of people with Alzheimer's disease are struggling to communicate.  But a pair of studies released Monday says many may be doing it all wrong.

           

"I think both of these studies shed light on how we typically communicate with Alzheimer's disease patients and unfortunately show us some of the less than desirable outcomes of how we interact with Alzheimer's patients," Dr. Ronald Petersen, Alzheimer's Association.

A researcher at UCLA spent three years studying mealtime conversations of families with an Alzheimer's patient.  They found that family members often ignored comments by the person with Alzheimer's or tried to speak for them-effectively excluding them from family conversations. 

In the second study, researchers from the University of Kansas found similar communication problems in some nursing homes.  When caregivers spoke to patients in "elderspeak" - meaning overly loud, slow or childlike language, the patients became nearly twice as likely to resist care.

           

"The elderspeak study was important because it taught us how to communicate with Alzheimer's disease patients.  It demonstrated that in fact how we communicate with people may affect their behavior," says Petersen.

Experts say the two studies agree: a little respect can make a big difference for people living with Alzheimer's.

           

Robert Bazell, NBC News, Chicago

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