Planning Ahead for a Positive Visit with Someone with Dementia

planning ahead for a positive visit

Visiting the ones we love can be a wonderful experience. The same is true when you are planning to visit a person with dementia—it just calls for some forethought to help ensure it is a positive, comfortable event.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people often hesitate to visit those with cognitive issues because they are not sure what to say or do. They feel awkward being around someone whose memory is no longer clear. However, it’s important to understand that the person you have always loved is still there, and still needs the love and attention of family and friends.

Simply stated, your visit, when well-planned and thoughtful, is good for a person with dementia.

Tips for Planning a Positive Visit with A Loved One with Dementia.

As you think about seeing your loved one, consider these points:

Who is visiting?
Limit visitors to one or two as too many people might be overwhelming. If you are bringing a child, talk to them ahead of time so they understand how to talk to their grandmother or grandfather. Have them bring a snack or special photos they can give to their elder. Bring a simple activity they can work on together, such as a simple puzzle or game.

When to Visit.
Even with dementia, a person is often either a morning person, or someone who is most alert in the afternoon. Be sure to visit at the best time for your loved one. If you’re not sure of the best time to go, talk to the caregivers. You also might check the activities calendar to see if you can accompany the person you are visiting to an event they might enjoy.

How to Communicate.
Peaceful and calm are the goals. Reduce the distractions. Turn off the television. Speak slowly in soft tones. Greet your loved one with a smile and maintain eye contact as much as possible. Offer a gentle touch. Pay close attention to their facial expressions, and be sure to keep your face at or below their eye level, so they feel a sense of control.

New call-to-action

Your Conversation.
Be friendly and positive; don’t get frustrated or angry. Introduce yourself even if you’re sure they know you. But don’t walk in assuming they won’t remember you. Moments of clarity can come and go, especially during the early stages of dementia. Keep your statements short, and state any questions in a “yes” or “no” format (would you like a snack? Instead of what do you want to eat?).

What You Can Do Together.
Bring something to do, such as a book you can read from. A photo album with pictures of family or old snapshots from their past. If you know their favorite music, bring something to play it on. Children can bring an easy puzzle to assemble, or show their grandparent a scrapbook, funny videos on a phone or laptop, or a drawing they’ve made that could be hung on the room’s wall.

Consider bringing a pet along. Animals can be calming, joyful, and help a person connect that has trouble communicating. Or, take your loved one outside to get some fresh air and sunshine. Being outdoors also creates possibilities for interactions with others. So does accompanying your loved one to a holiday event, showing them the decorations, and so on.

Consider a Visitor Guestbook.
This can be a great way to connect with others who are dropping by. Whether it’s a family member, caregiver, or therapist, each person can note when they came by and what they enjoyed about the visit. Even if the person with dementia cannot read the book, it’s a conversation starter for the next visitor. This can help alleviate the anxiety that many people have about not knowing what to say to the person they are visiting.

Appeal to Their Senses.

What has always brought them joy? Sewing? Gardening? Fishing? Bring a memento that relates to these experiences, such as a piece of fabric or a fishing hat. A soft pillow or fragrant sachet can bring back a familiar memory and soothe at the same time. For example, studies have shown that rosemary can have a positive impact on memory in dementia patients. Fresh flowers are a thoughtful gift and something your loved one can enjoy after your visit.

Just Remember.

You want to adjust to where they are, not the other way around. This is the time to slow down. If they say statements that are not true, let it go. When they ask difficult questions, such as when they can go home, let them know you have heard them and gently redirect them to a favorite memory or engage them in an activity you have brought.

But also, be ready to sit in silence together—just reassuring your loved one that they are safe, loved, and cared for. That can be the greatest gift of all.

Save on Flower Arrangements and Support The Alzheimer’s Association!

At Senior Star, we are passionate in our support of The Alzheimer’s Association and are proud to offer this opportunity to support the cause to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025: Use our special link save 25% on your order of flowers and gifts from FTD—10% of your order will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. We thank you!

We strive to give your loved one purpose each and every day. We’d like to tell you more about our exceptional memory care program. Download Just the Facts: A Guide to Memory Care. Questions about senior living?  Contact us to learn more.