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Alzheimer's patients resent 'elderspeak'

July 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
"Elderspeak" is a kind of "baby talk" many well-intentioned caregivers use to communicate with aging adults, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer's.It may sound sweet and well intentioned, but a new study finds caregivers who use "baby talk" to communicate with aging adults- especially those with dementia or Alzheimer's are doing them a big disservice.

A new study says it may actually be harmful.

"Some of the things you hear in 'elder speak' are a very high pitched, maybe sing song voice," said Kristine Williams, an associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing.

Kristine Williams and her team at the University of Kansas studies Alzheimer's at a nursing home as they interacted with staff. They found "elder speak" made patients far more resistant to care and made them more stressed out.

Williams and her team created training videos that teach health professionals how not to talk to adults with dementia.

Williams theorizes younger people have stereotypes of older adults as being less able to communicate and less competent. She says Alzheimer's patients are struggling to hang on to who they are. And when people treat them like infants it frustrates them.

Williams hopes her findings will make caregivers think twice about how they speak to their patients.

"As a nurse I'm interested in finding evidence for how best to care for people," said Williams.

So what should you do if you witness "elder speak?" Experts say avoid lecturing caregivers, it might be smarter to tell the staff a little bit about your loved one's life achievements so they might be less likely to talk to them as a child.

 

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