For many people, the prospect of visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Understandably, it is difficult to see the progressive effects of the disease and accept what has happened to the person they have loved and respected. They will often say, “I wouldn’t know what to say or how to act” or “She doesn’t know who I am so what’s the point of visiting?” or “It just bothers me too much to see her like that!”
This is plausible and not at all uncommon. Knowing how to act, what to say and what not to say can seem like a daunting challenge for both friends and family members. Fortunately, however, experts offer some simple tips that can make your visit a successful one while also providing important benefits to both the loved one and their primary caregiver. In fact, it is said that a visit may be the very best gift you can give to both the individual with the disease and his/her caregiver.
Attitude Is Key!
Experts agree that attitude is extremely important when visiting with a loved one or friend with dementia. People with Alzheimer’s are highly intuitive and are often able to sense your mood. If you are feeling anxious, stressed out or rushed, they may become agitated as a result. And like all of us, individuals with dementia can have their good days and bad days.
Strategies to Make Your Visit a Successful One
The Alzheimers.org article, “Positive Attitude: The Key to Successful Visiting and Holiday Gift Giving,” offers some useful tips designed to help achieve a pleasant and satisfying visit – for you, the person with dementia and their primary caregiver. For example:
- Bring items from the past – Photo albums are great reminiscence tools. While recent memories may have faded for the individual, past memories are often vivid and clear. Photos from the past can spark conversation, elicit fond memories and make for a wonderful visit.
- Relate to his/her former interests – This can be used as a trigger for a positive response. Take a fishing magazine for the former angler or a fashion magazine for the woman who loved clothing.
- Enjoy the moment with him/her – Simply looking at pictures and hearing your soothing conversation can be entertaining and create a positive experience for the person with dementia.
- Look at the big picture – What is most important is that the person has a positive experience, whether he/she remembers who you are or not.
- Do not ask the person if he/she remember you – By saying this, you are constantly reminding the person of their deficits.
- Show your love and care – Exhibit your love and support when visiting, be positive and demonstrate to the person that you are someone who loves and cares about him/her.
- Plan on a short visit – If you visit for short intervals you are more likely to have a successful interaction.
Additional Tips that Can Help Improve Your Visit
- Introduce yourself and call the person by name before every interaction.
- Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation to show you are listening.
- Allow the person time to respond to your questions. Studies show that individuals with dementia need 90 seconds longer than normal to process what is being said.
- Reduce the stimulation around you. Turn off the TV or radio.
- Talk to the person like an adult. Don’t talk down or use “baby talk.”
- Talk in short, easy-to-understand sentences.
- Don’t ask questions. It is better to make statements. Instead of, “Are you enjoying the pretty weather?” say, “It is has been so beautiful this fall.”
- Make sure you approach the individual from the front and at his/her level.
- Use touch to let him/her know you care.
- Never say “goodbye” at the end of a visit. It is better not to draw attention to the fact that you are leaving. Try saying, “I love you.”
Visiting a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is not only good for him/her, but also for the caregiver and his/her family. It is important for caregivers to know they are not alone and that they have others who are supportive and care about their loved one.
Help Is Available for Caregivers
Today, a variety of resources is available to assist caregivers who are caring for their loved ones at home. These include Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, Respite Care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Progressive, residential Memory Care providers, such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support and special events designed to help family caregivers.
For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “NEW DIRECTIONSSM” program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “NEW DIRECTIONSSM” provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.
For more information and helpful resources, contact us today!