Study shows dementia patients recognize 'elderspeak'

They may not be as sharp as they once were. Their memory may be failing. But people with Alzheimer's can still sense when someone is talking down to them.

And they don't like it any more than the rest of us do.

That's the finding of a University of Kansas School of Nursing researcher who analyzed everyday interactions between nursing home residents with dementia and the staff who took care of them.

When the staff called residents demeaning names like "Sweetie" or "Dearie" or spoke to them in the singsong language of baby talk, the residents were twice as likely to be uncooperative as when they were spoken to in a normal adult tone.

They showed their displeasure in a variety of ways: pushing away, issuing threats, grabbing things, clenching their teeth, crying and screaming, hitting and kicking.

"People with dementia realize they're losing their cognitive abilities. One of their challenges is to maintain their sense of identity. If they're talked to like an infant, it can be very disturbing," said KU researcher Kristine Williams.

"They recognize they're being talked down to, and they find it patronizing and demeaning."

Williams will be presenting her findings this week in Chicago at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease. Her study is to be published this fall in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias.

Read the complete story at