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ICAD: Don't Treat Alzheimer's Patients Like Children

In nursing homes and private homes, poor communication styles may affect response to care

TUESDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- During conversations with Alzheimer's patients, respectful adult communication results in more cooperation and higher quality of care, according to research presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, held July 26-31 in Chicago.

In one study, Kristine Williams, Ph.D., of the University of Kansas and colleagues videotaped 20 nursing home residents during bathing, dressing, oral care and other activities. They found that the probability of resistance to care was significantly higher when nursing home staff used "elderspeak" or silence (0.55 and 0.36, respectively) than when they used normal adult communication (0.26).

In a related study, Jeanne Katzman of the University of California Los Angeles videotaped dinner conversations in 30 families in which one member had recent onset of Alzheimer's. She found that healthy family members responded to problematic utterances in predictable patterns, such as ignoring what was said, "speaking for" the Alzheimer's patient or rewording what the patient said and bringing the patient's contribution to the conversation to a close.

"The style of communication that we use with people with Alzheimer's influences how they feel about themselves and how well they respond to those providing care," Sam Fazio, Ph.D., director, medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement. "With the growing prevalence of Alzheimer's, it will be increasingly important for healthcare providers, caregivers and families to understand the effect Alzheimer's has on communication and, perhaps more importantly, the impact their communication may have on the individual's quality of life."

Williams Abstract
Katzman Abstract

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