Even if your senior has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they still enjoy having visitors! Here’s how to make these visits successful and positive by helping family and friends know what to say and do.
Plan visits strategically
- Limit visitors to 1 or 2 people at a time. Too many people can be overwhelming.
- Schedule visits for the time of day when your older adult is usually at their best.
- Minimize distractions by keeping the environment calm and quiet. Turn off the TV or loud music and ask any non-visitors to go to another room.
- Send this list to your visitors ahead of time so they’ll have time to absorb the information.
- Keep your tone and body language friendly and positive.
- Make eye contact and stay at their eye level.
- Introduce yourself even if you’re sure they must know you. “Hi, Grandma. I’m Joe your grandson.”
- Speak slowly and in short sentences with only one idea per sentence. For example, “Hi, Mary. I’m Jane, your friend” or “What a beautiful day. The sunshine is nice isn’t it?” or “Tell me about your daughter.”
- Give them extra time to speak or answer questions. (don’t rush the conversation.)
- Use open-ended questions because there are no right or wrong answers.
- Be OK with sitting together in silence. They may enjoy that as much as talking.
- Follow their lead. (Don’t force conversations topics or activities.)
- 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 are not true or do not make sense.
- Share and discuss memories of the past. They are more likely to remember things from long ago.
- Come prepared with an activity, like something to read out loud, a photo album to look at, or some of their favorite music to listen to.
- Give hugs, gentle touches, or massage arms or shoulders if the person gives permission and enjoys it.
- Speak too loudly.
- Say “Do you remember?” This can cause anger or embarrassment.
- Argue. If they say something that’s not correct, just let it go.
- Point out mistakes. It just embarrasses them and does not help the conversation.
- Assume they don’t remember anything. Many people have moments of clarity.
- Take mean or nasty things they say personally. The disease may twist their words or make them react badly out of confusion, fear, or anger.
- Talk down to them. They are not children and you should show the proper respect.
- Talk about them with other people as if they’re not there.
It takes patience and skill to interact with a person with Alzheimer’s and dementia. You will have a lot more practice when you visit regularly. Give your older adult the gift of a lovely visit by setting your visitor up for success. Having a great visit and understanding more about dementia might even encourage family and friends to visit more often.
If you have had concerns about your loved one’s ability to live independently, or your ability to be their sole caregiver, then perhaps it is a good idea to begin exploring the options in your area. Consider the benefits that could come from hiring a companion for your aging loved one, and take advantage of this increasingly popular method of care.
For more information, call At Home Care Company in Ames at 515-292-2650 or Ankeny (Polk County) at 515-963-4410.
Contributed by Joan Ingwersen, Owner