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Alzheimer's Patients React Poorly to 'Elderspeak'
Date:7/28/2008

Talking to them like children brings out more resistance, study found

MONDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Alzheimer's patients may often become upset and even act out when nurses or other caregivers use "baby talk" to converse with them, a new study shows.

Researchers who taped the interactions of nursing home staff and people with moderate Alzheimer's found that the residents often became more agitated and resistant to care if they were addressed as infants.

"People who have dementia are trying to maintain their sense of being a person. And if their concept of being a person is that they are a competent person, and someone is talking to them like they are an infant, that might be distressing," speculates lead researcher Kristine Williams, an associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing.

The findings were to be presented Monday at the Alzheimer Association's International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, in Chicago.

Nursing experts have known for years that family caregivers and professional nursing staff alike tend to lapse into infantilizing speech, what they call "elderspeak," when dealing with the elderly or infirm. This type of speech involves an overly caring but controlling tone of voice, shortened sentences, repetition, the use of inappropriately intimate terms of endearment ("sweetie," "dear"), and a tendency to treat the person in a childlike or highly dependent manner.

"They also tend to alter the pronouns, so they might say, 'Are we ready for our bath?' That really gives the message that the person isn't able to act independently, instead of, 'Are you ready for me to help you with your bath?'," Williams explained.

"What, theoretically, we think is going on is that younger people have stereotypes of older adults as being less able to communicate, less competent in a lot of different areas," she said. According to Williams, the tendency of a caregiv
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