Visiting someone with dementia can be overwhelming when it comes to expectations -- particularly if you're unfamiliar with the disease and its progression. Let's take a closer look at some tips and techniques designed to ensure that both you and your aging loved one get the most out of visits.
1. Keep it Short
The phrase "short and sweet" absolutely applies when it comes to visiting someone with dementia. Limit your visit to no more than an hour, particularly if you're spending time with someone who tires easily. And remember, quality of time is much more important than quantity of time.
2. Emphasize Eye Contact
When beginning your visit, put yourself at your loved one's level physically. If he/she is in bed or a wheelchair, lower yourself to eye contact position. Always begin the visit by introducing yourself and announcing your relationship with the person with whom you're visiting.
3. Get in Touch
The "power of touch," is a very real thing, and has many benefits for combating senior isolation. When spending time with your aging loved one, hand holding, hugs, and other signs of affection can help seniors feel comfortable and loved.
Massage is also a wonderful way to connect, as is helping your aging loved one with a self-care activity, such as giving a facial, a shave, or a makeup application. One caveat? If you are going to touch your loved one, explain your intentions first.
3. Share Positive Memories
While many people with dementia struggle with recent memories, many enjoy taking a walk down memory lane. Bring your family photo album, and try to talk about old times. Keep the discussion limited to positive topics, and if your loved one seems to get agitated or upset, change the subject.
4. Engage in a Favorite Activity Together
When words fail, consider connecting in other ways. Whether you take a drive, do a puzzle, or listen to music together, these activities can foster a successful visit. Or, share a meal. Whatever you do, keep it simple. If you introduce too many tasks or activities, you may tire or overwhelm your loved one.
Working together on a small, manageable
puzzle or other activity can be fulfilling for you both.
5. Be Flexible
Visiting someone with dementia may not go the way you expect it to -- particularly as the disease progresses. Be present, appreciate the moment, and adjust your plans as necessary. Sometimes simply sitting with a person with dementia may be all that's possible. And don't take your loved one's reactions personally. If your loved one seems upset, angry or disinterested, accept that these changes are part of the disease process, and not a response to you.
6. Get Educated
Understanding dementia and its progression can help you manage your expectations and make the most out of your visit. Before visiting, spend some time learning about the disease and how it is impacting your loved one.
You may have asked yourself whether it's even worth visiting when the person with whom you're spending time won't even remember. However, there is far more to a person than their memories. Visits from friends and family members can help people with dementia feel more socially, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilled.
mmlearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmlearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs.