How Can I Make the Most of a Visit?
Every circumstance and relationship is unique but what follows are some basic suggestions that can help you prepare for your visit and offer guidance on how to help you and your loved one have the most meaningful time together possible.
Set realistic expectations. Prepare yourself for your visit by acknowledging that your loved one’s cognitive skills may have declined since you saw them last. It’s possible they may display challenging behavior, or they may not remember you as you might hope that they would. Sharing your plans with staff in advance can allow them to ensure your loved one is ready; they may be able to suggest what time of day would be best for your visit.
Minimize distractions in the room. Ask to turn off the television or radio during your visit. If you’re in a room with others that has become noisy or busy, move to another area. The more distractions there are in the room, the more difficult conversation may become.
Make eye contact and introduce yourself. When you are face-to-face, smile and introduce yourself, giving your loved one ample time to process what you’ve said. A gentle reminder of how they know you or how you’re related might help them if they don’t recognize you initially.
Speak slowly, asking questions one at a time. While you should be respectful and not treat your loved one like a child or talk down to them, it may be helpful to speak slowly and clearly, repeating yourself as needed. Give them time to respond and don’t bombard them with multiple questions at once.
Bring along some photos or mementos. Looking at old photos with loved ones is not only fun, but it can also spark memories in those dealing with dementia. Your loved ones may be soothed by seeing familiar items and may even be prompted to tell the story behind them.
Redirect rather than correct. Correcting them may only serve to agitate your loved one. It’s often effective to validate their feelings and redirect the conversation to a more pleasant topic.
You may be surprised by how much you enjoy spending time with your loved one, even if the parameters of your relationship have changed. Even if they are no longer able to recognize you, your presence alone can be enjoyable and soothing. You may be planning your next visit sooner than you had thought.