Visiting A Person With Dementia Or Alzheimer’s Disease

It is not uncommon for family members or friends to feel apprehensive prior to visiting a loved one who lives at a facility for assisted living, especially if the person suffers from any type of dementia. However, while it can be difficult, these visits are important, and they don’t have to be unpleasant. Here are a few tips to consider prior to your visit.

It’s first important to consider your loved one’s daily schedule. Many residents keep a busy schedule full of activities, so it is important that you schedule your visit at a time that is convenient, both for yourself and your loved one in assisted living. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it can be wise to speak to the staff and ask about the best times for a visit.

Begin your visit with a good hug and be sure to state that you are happy to be there. Bring some flowers or perhaps some candy (unless health restrictions prohibit this) or some fresh fruit. Drawings or handmade cards from grandchildren or young relatives also can be a welcome gift.  While your loved one might remember you, it is quite common that they will not recall who you are, even if you are a spouse, sibling or child. Simply introduce yourself and explain that you have come for a visit.

If you are visiting a person with any type of dementia at a home for assisted living, consider only having one or two people visit at any given time. Having to deal with many visitors can be confusing and downright frightening for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The whole purpose behind visiting is to bring some comfort and cheer, not to upset the person, so keep in mind that multiple visitors may be difficult for them to handle.

Young man visiting his father
Visiting a person with dementia should be comforting and bring them joy.

When sitting with your loved one, hold their hand or gently rub their arm. Offer to give them a foot rub or even a pedicure. This can be very soothing and welcome, but be sure to ask if it is ok prior to touching them. Just say, “may I give you a hug or a back rub?” Sometimes just sitting with a loved one and looking at a scrapbook or photo album and talking quietly brings a great deal of enjoyment. You might also play a simple game, listen to music or eat a meal with your loved one.

When it comes to conversation, keep things light and simple. Be sure to speak slowly and if you ask questions, ask just one at a time and allow them extra time to formulate an answer. Don’t ask them to remember specific events or people, but if they do bring up a special memory, enjoy sharing the memory with them. People with dementia often become confused about time so if they begin to discuss someone who has passed away or are confused about certain events, don’t argue or correct them. 

At some facilities for assisted living, it is permissible to bring a pet to a visit. Your loved one might enjoy spending time with a furry friend, so ask about the possibility of bringing a dog or cat during a visit. This can provide a great deal of comfort and petting the animal and sharing stories about the animal can provide you with something to do. It might even spark memories of pets that your loved one had in the past or other pleasant memories. Even if your loved one has reached a point where they have difficulty speaking, petting an animal can bring comfort.

Leaving can be the most difficult part of the visit, and it can be upsetting for both you and your loved one. It can help to schedule the visit prior to a meal or another activity to make an interesting transition for your loved one. Don’t make a big deal out of leaving, simply say, “I have enjoyed our visit, and I will come back for another one soon. But I have to leave now. Can I give you a hug?” If you do notice, during your visit, that your loved one seems tired or confused, it might be wise to cut the visit short.

If you have a loved one that needs memory care, we can help you find assisted living in San Diego County. There are many options to consider, and we can help find an assisted living community that will meet your loved ones needs now and in the future.

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