Just because your loved one with Alzheimer’s is now in a memory care community doesn’t mean that they can’t have or won’t enjoy visitors. However, it takes patience, skill and a positive mindset for both sides to have a good visit. Did we mention patience… because that is the most important thing! It takes plenty of patience to change how you used to interact, but remember this change is crucial to maintaining a positive and strong bond with your loved one now. With that said, our team of memory care specialists in South Jersey have put together 5 essential tips to follow when visiting someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Be positive and uplifting. It’s important to have the right mindset when visiting a loved one with a dementia condition to avoid upsetting or agitating them. This doesn’t mean that you have to turn your cheerfulness up to 11, but it is a good idea to frame your visit as an opportunity to spend some quality time together. Be calm and mindful of your own feelings and focus on the little things that make your time together worthwhile – not how things may have changed. Find ways that you can make your loved one smile and laugh, relax and breathe deeply, and don’t focus on the negative.
- Be short and sweet. When talking to your loved one, keep sentences short and sweet. Remember, they’ll have trouble following a longer story, so try to keep your conversation at one idea per sentence, giving your loved one time to digest it. Focus on what’s here and now, or what’s in the past, as this tends to trigger long-term memories and conversation more easily. Talk slowly, softly, and clearly – and be prepared to repeat yourself. You can also use short, simple prompts like “Tell me about your craft project,” or “Are you enjoying your meal?” but be prepared to wait for an answer or not receive the answer you are looking for.
- Sit in silence. We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to interact with the loved one we’re visiting, but it’s not necessary to make your visit busy in any way. You can sit in comfortable silence together, take a quiet walk around the garden, look through a photo album, or even watch TV together – your company and being there is what truly matters. Some visitors like to bring their loved one’s favorite music so they can listen together, or they read a book out loud to their loved ones. Sometimes questions, conversation, and activities can be stressful to people with dementia, and sitting quietly together can be very comforting and soothing.
- Validate their feelings and reality. In some ways, it can feel like a loved one with dementia is in another world. They can be happy about something they never used to like or upset about something they used to enjoy. Whatever their reaction, it’s better to enter their reality rather than trying to make them see yours. Just go with the flow and allow them to express the feelings and thoughts they have regardless of if they make sense or are appropriate. If they say a loved one who has passed on had coffee with them yesterday, ask them how it was and what they chatted about. If an activity upsets them, move on to something else. Let them take the lead and show you, their world.
- Don’t add frustration or stress. Having a loved one with a dementia condition is very stressful, upsetting, and sad for you, as well as for them. And certain things we say and do can make this worse for all involved. Don’t say “Do you remember?” point out mistakes, or start an argument, as this can cause severe agitation and bad feelings. Not to mention, they may not even understand what the problem is, causing them to feel embarrassed and react harshly out of fear. At the same time, don’t assume that your loved one has no recall whatsoever. On good days, people with dementia can have very clear memory recollection. Assuming the worst, like your loved one is not capable of remembering anything at all, can cause them to feel belittled or talked down to. To help prevent this, follow their lead to see how they are doing on that particular day. Appreciating the good days and having a little extra patience on the bad ones can do wonders for both of you.
Alzheimer’s support at UMC in Cape May County
UMC at The Shores is a part of the United Methodist Communities network, specializing in memory care in South Jersey. We understand that dementia conditions are difficult to deal with, which is why we offer 24/7 comprehensive care for our residents, as well as support for their loved ones.
Original blog posted on https://theshores.umcommunities.org/the-shores/5-tips-for-visiting-someone-with-alzheimers/