Trends in aging: Alzheimer's and Dementia

By Wendy McHaney
Feb. 21, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:21 p.m.

In my previous column, I highlighted the characteristics of an Amber, or someone who is in mid- to late-stage dementia. As the brain loses more function because of advanced dementia, the language, reasoning and memory skills are lost.

Speech with an Amber needs to be limited, and complicated verbal interactions are not going to be successful. The following are best practices for communicating with an Amber:

Use a friendly, warm and adult tone

Convey your message in as few words as possible, and allow time after you speak for the Amber to process information and respond

Keep speech short and uncomplicated

Match words with visual cues. If you sense frustration, take a break.

The Amber is losing the ability to process complex skills and is becoming more dependent on the primary senses. Ambers have difficulty comprehending the complex reasoning of who, what, where, when and how.

For an Amber, there may not be a beginning or an end, simply an experience that is happening. It is critical to use the correct sequence of cues with an Amber. Strategies to avoid with an Amber include:

Doing for them instead of with them

Emptying the environment

Getting tasks or personal hygiene accomplished even if it causes distress

Being too loud and allowing too much stimulation

Strategies that work include:

Demonstrating what you want

Being quiet once you ask them to do something

Supplying substitutes as you take things away

Providing experiences that give purpose

Taking a time out when necessary

When used in order, the following cues can provide better communication and a positive connection with an Amber:

Make a friendly, visual connection, then show the Amber what you want them to do

As simply as possible, tell the person what you want them to do

If needed, touch the person to establish a physical connection or help them with the taskMy next column will discuss the importance of activities at this stage of dementia and will highlight ways to accomplish them.

Senior Helpers is presenting free workshops and support groups at Copperfield Village, 501 E. Larkspur St. in Victoria, every Thursday morning from 10:15 until 11:15 a.m.

Call 361-894-8901 for more information about these workshops. Previous columns on the stages of dementia as well as other trends in aging can be found on our website,

Sources: SH Franchising Senior Gems training materials

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit



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