Planning a Successful Visit with a Loved One with Dementia
People living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can still enjoy having visitors. It is helpful for caregivers, family, and friends to do some preparation ahead of time to help make the experience as positive and enjoyable as possible. Having a great visit and understanding more about dementia might even encourage family and friends to visit more often.
Below is a list of some do’s and don’ts to help plan a successful trip with your loved one.
Tips TO DO when Visiting a Love One with Dementia
- Your tone and body language are so important. Keep them friendly and cheerful.
- Speak in a calm voice, and don’t speak too loudly.
- Making eye contact is important. Always sit and stay at their eye level.
- Depending on the level of cognitive difficulties, you should introduce yourself, especially if the person looks puzzled to see you. “Hi Joan, I’m your friend Jane to come for a visit.”
- Always give them extra time to speak or answer questions. Often, it takes 60 seconds or more for them to process the information.
- Use open-ended questions so there will be no right or wrong answers.
- It’s okay to sit together in silence. They may enjoy that as much as talking.
- Always follow their lead. Let them be in charge of the conversation.
- Validate their feelings. Allow them to express sadness, fear, or anger.
- Enter their reality. Go with the flow of the conversation, even if they talk about things that aren’t true or don’t make sense. Never correct them.
- Reminiscing is so important. Share and discuss memories from the past. They are more likely to remember things from long ago.
- Come prepared with an activity: something to read aloud, a photo album to look at, or some of their favorite music to listen to.
- Always, always, always give hugs, gentle touches, massage arms or shoulders if the person gives permission and enjoys it.
Tips NOT TO DO when Visiting a Loved One with Dementia
- Don’t say, “Do you remember?” This can cause anger, embarrassment, or distrust.
- Don’t argue. If they say something incorrect, even if it hurts, just let it go.
- Don’t point out mistakes. It just makes them feel bad and doesn’t help the conversation.
- Don’t assume they don’t remember anything. Many people have moments of clarity.
- Don’t take mean or nasty things they say personally. It’s not the person talking; it is the dementia talking. The disease may twist their words or make them react badly out of confusion, frustration, fear, or anger.
- Don’t talk down to them. They aren’t children, and you should always show proper respect.
- Don’t talk about them with others as if they are not there.
It can be challenging to see someone you love living with dementia. You may feel a wide variety of emotions that can influence your behavior. Be kind to yourself. Stay positive, warm, and calm. Remember, this is someone you care about. You want to show that you care about them and the time you have together.
Other Tips When Visiting Loved Ones with Dementia
Try to remove distractions — TVs and radios can easily catch our attention. What is vaguely distracting for us, though, can be tortuous for people with dementia.
Practice active listening. Active listening is a form of communication that lets the other person know you are listening. Nodding and responding in validating ways help people feel you want to hear more.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to understanding more about dementia and your loved one so your tell with them can be well-spent. Remember, you are human and it’s okay to have good days and bad days. If these visits become overwhelming and you need help caring for your loved ones, contact Loretta at Simplify Senior Living.