Visiting someone with Dementia
Whether your loved one lives in an assisted home or is cared for at home by a professional or relative caregiver, there are certain “rules” to follow when visiting someone with dementia to make your stay a breeze of fresh air on all. The family situation is already difficult to make a small mistake and create a confusion and conflict with the person living with dementia and those who tend for him or her.
There are a few tips to follow that are adjustable to the different stages of this disease. As you may be able to have the grandchildren play catch with their grandpa, at later stages it might be best to just sit holding their hand. Here is a compiled list of recommendations to pursue when visiting someone with dementia.
- Have real expectations. No matter the stage of dementia, you need to keep in mind what your loved one is going through. And as easy as they could recognize you, they could pass you for a nice stranger who simply came to talk to them. In all cases it is a good idea to introduce yourself even if it seems obvious that they will remember. Save the possible awkwardness by simply telling him or her who you are.
- Keep a respectful manner towards them. They have gone through many life experiences and do not need to be treated like a child. Show them the respect they deserve and try avoiding quick and slangish language.
- Avoid any conflicts. Part of being respectful is avoiding any emotional discomfort on your loved one. Part of their reality is having cases of paranoia, delusions or simply thinking it is Thursday when it really is Sunday. Do not argue a pointless discussion that could cause him or her to feel distressed and anxious. In these cases is better to make reassurances and create a distraction unless the issue is one of importance.
- Create a calm environment. Try to minimize any distractions around you and avoid loud noises. Not only does this help have a clear conversation but also provides a proper ambient to prevent confusions or anxiety attacks. Another good technique to calm the patient with dementia is music. Play music that is familiar to your loved one, accompany them if you know the words. It has been studied and proved that even if the patient cannot recall the trigger in a discussion they certainly can still feel angry or distressed by something that happen. Which is why it is encouraged to be supportive, caring and even tell jokes to improve their mood even if it is for a short visit, their emotion will last longer than the memory.
- Express yourself in a non-verbal way. Try using touch or different body expressions. This normally applies more for those in the later stages of dementia. In most cases of this stage the patient is bed bound and cannot do the normal activities they once did even when having this disease. By referring to touch, I’m talking about that tender caress that a lonely heart sometimes needs desperately to be joined back to this world, to feel the warmth of another heart and feel cared for. If possible also try bringing them outdoors or close to a window so they can feel the fresh air touch their face.
Visiting someone with dementia may seem pointless since they probably will not remember your presence. They may have lost your face and your name with all the other memories, but they know when they are loved and respected. Their hearts have no loss of emotions and can keep a good mood going all day long.