Visiting elderly loved ones in Memory care. Does it make a difference? How do you make the most of the visit?
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Laura Smothers-Chu of Befriended Heart which is a practical and optimistic step-by-step approach to dementia, tailored to daughters https://www.joyindementia.com/
Many of the helpful tips I received from Laura during our interview are contained in the following blog. Find our full interview at the bottom of the page.
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Visiting Elderly in Memory Care
What will we do when I am there?
Most people naturally are uncomfortable sitting in silence. But your elderly loved ones want to see you. They don’t really care what you are doing they just enjoy presence.
If you want to plan an engaging activity, use your knowledge of what they enjoy. Perhaps a visit from a beloved pet is something they would like. Or a game. There are games that are modified for people with dementia. Such as large puzzles with easy to grip pieces.
It can certainly be trial and error. Maybe they used to enjoy an activity but not any longer.
Another strategy is to sit in with activities that the community is having. Some will even offer field trips you can attend with your loved one. Most activities are usually a half hour or less due to short attention spans of people living with dementia.
Check out our other blog for more activities to engage loved ones with dementia!
Visiting elderly loved ones with dementia may be challenging due to communication barriers. Remember love is universal language- if you don’t have words, you can always use touch or facial expressions to communicate. Tone of voice is very important to people with dementia. Remain calm and reassuring at all times. Eye contact and smiling are also very important.
When you visit, it can be hard to set your own emotions aside. But your loved one will pick up on and respond to your attitude and emotion so try and remain positive.
Meet them where they are. They may not be able to say many words but you can fill in the gaps by telling stories and reminiscing/ People with dementia regress in time, so nostalgia can bring about positive memories and emotion. It may be helpful to have photo albums handy to share. Try something like the grandmother’s journal– putting together photos and keepsakes from those they love.
Is it better to visit or not?
You may wonder if your loved one with dementia knows you are there or appreciates you coming. Quality of life is always better for elderly when we visit.
Before deciding if you should visit, put yourself in their shoes- it is hurtful to be alone. Visits provide reassurance and positive emotions. Not only will your visit be good for them, it is good for you too. Visiting elderly can relieve caregiver guilt and burden.
It isn’t about the amount of time you spend either. It may be more sustainable to visit more frequently for a shorter time. Also the staff tend to give more attention to the residents that get visits more often.
When you leave don’t make it a big deal. Avoid saying goodbye- instead say see you soon, or I’ll be back later. This may help alleviate anxiety.
Check out this article on keeping your loved one with dementia calm and oriented.
Watch the full video interview with Laura Smothers-Chu below:
Want to learn more about overcoming communication barriers that come along with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? Check out this article.