Visiting someone with Alzheimer’s is an importance aspect of their care and overall well-being. Even if they are otherwise healthy and all their medical needs are being met, don’t underestimate the power of a personal visit. As with most aspects of Alzheimer’s, it isn’t the memory of the visit that they will value, but the feelings and emotions that are conveyed and expressed.
When visiting someone, it is crucial not to overwhelm them. Don’t arrive as a big noisy group, asking questions and “taking over” their space. A social tornado is not helpful. Visitors should be in small groups and quietly enter the room or home. If need be, introduce yourself informally and explain why you are there. For instance, Hi Mom, it’s your son, I stopped over to a visit. I brought my wife Sue with me. This will gently explain what’s happening and ease confusion and stress.
Since people with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to have a “normal” conversation, (i.e. questions and answers, talk of the future, etc.), it’s good to bring “props”. Put on their favorite music, bring photos, have a specific story to tell. Preparing ahead of time will have the conversation go much better and be much more rewarding.
A person with Alzheimer’s may not remember some things, but they do have emotions and feelings. Be careful not to embarrass them. Don’t make jokes about them or their situation. Also, it is not a good idea to argue or correct with them. If they are insistent on something that isn’t true, drop the subject and move onto something else. Don’t put them on the spot, or make them feel badly.
Finally, the personal touch is always welcomed. Bring a gift, maybe a framed photo or cuddling stuffed animal. Hold their hand while you talk to them, rub their back or play with their hair. So long as they aren’t agitated or experiencing pain, they will have a sense of love and belonging that will last much longer than your visit.
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