I remember my first encounter with Alzheimer’s. It was back in 1978, before Alzheimer’s was a part of our everyday language. It was at a wedding where a 104-year-old grandmother became a source of amusement to her son or grandson who she no longer recognized. It bothered me to see then laughing at the sad situation.
Now as I look back, I think their laughter was probably the healthiest reaction. It was better than getting upset. I have known of other people since then who have been isolated from family because of this condition. I’m embarrassed to write that I have not pushed to visit them. That is what motivates me to write this blog about visiting someone with Alzheimer’s/Dementia.
Don’t worry about them recognizing you, or remembering your past together. Just enjoy time together. And to make the visit a little easier, first ask their caregiver for any special insight, and be armed with the following tips from these various sources:
From the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org/documents/heartofamerica/Visiting_Someone_with_Alzheimers.pdf.
Get an understanding of the person’s changes in behavior and memory. Are there any triggers, i.e. are there any specific actions or words that may upset the person.
- Ask the caregiver if there are any specific activities that would make the visit more enjoyable, such as going to lunch, looking at a photo album, playing cards or some other game, or even playing music.
- Schedule the visit best suited to the person’s mood and attention.
- Set a time limit for the visit.
- Be prepared to leave if the person’s mood changes.
- Give the caregiver permission to ask you to leave at any time during the visit.
Marie Marley shares more specific tip on how to address the person with Alzheimer’s while you are visiting. The full article can be found at mariashriver.com/blog/2014/10/25-tips-for-visiting-a-person-with-alzheimers-marie-marley.
- Make eye contact.
- Be at their level.
- Speak slowly and in short sentences.
- Ask only one question at a time (or maybe don’t ask any questions, depending on the person’s condition).
- Treat repeated questions or stories as if it’s the first time you’re hearing it.
- Don’t correct the person or argue.
- One visitor at a time may be best.
- Don’t assume they don’t remember something.
- Don’t tell them a loved one has passed away.
A few more ideas come from www.gloriousopportunity.org/resources/Visiting_Someone_With_Dementia.pdf.
- Wear bright colors.
- Approach from the front.
- Take a magazine, or CD with familiar music, or illustrated books.
Most of all, don’t be sad about their condition. Be glad you’ve shared some time together and that you’ve lessened their loneliness or have given a break to their caregiver.
Take some pictures while you’re visiting, even if it’s in a hospital. They just might end up being you’re most treasured picture(s).
And if you’d like to take a gift, a Cravaat dining scarf is a great choice. This dignified adult bib not only preserves the individual’s dignity, but it will help their caregiver.