Four Steps to Great Visits
You’ve made the decision to place your loved one in an Alzheimer’s care community. It wasn’t easy, but the good news is you now have some peace of mind and can rest assured, knowing they will be safe and cared for. Now you can turn your attention to visiting and spending quality time with your parent or loved one.
There are some tried-and-true strategies I recommend to make your visits as enjoyable as possible. Before we get to the list, see if you can spot them in the recent scenario, below:
One daughter who visits her Dad on a regular basis comes in around an hour before lunch and immediately hugs Dad. He responds lovingly, even though he does not remember her name or who she is. She is still a friendly face, and her touch is gentle.
This particular resident always asks when it’s time to leave, when he can catch a bus, or when he is going home. As soon as he sees his daughter, the first words he asks are, “Are you going to take me home?” His daughter knowingly redirects by saying, “It was so beautiful outside today, and I came to visit you. Come take a walk with me!” He smiles and almost always follows her to the garden courtyard.
Her visits usually only last about 20-30 minutes. They hug again, and as she leaves, she talks about her kids, whom he adores. She brings her father to a community caregiver, so they can redirect his attention as she leaves. She doesn’t say goodbye. Her Dad is directed into another guided activity – seed planting – an old, familiar favorite of this former farmer.
This is an example of a good visit with a loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s disease. The resident has no anxiety about being left, because there was no final goodbye. The family member didn’t have to answer the same questions repeatedly, or struggle to respond to uncomfortable comments.
Here are my four tried-and-true tips for successful visits:
Avoid meal times. Meal times can be overwhelming and confusing for a resident with dementia.
Limit the amount of visitors. We know everyone in the family may want to visit; just try not to visit at the same time. Groups of four or more people can be distracting and uncomfortable for someone with dementia. They may even become fearful.
Yes, bring the grand kids! Most residents love children, and even though your loved one may not be able to distinguish them as their own relatives, the love is still present. Children bring light and joy to all seniors, so bridging the gap between young and old is recommended. Your community may even set up special events that involve children.
No goodbyes. Often, we feel the need to say goodbye for ourselves. Your loved one with dementia doesn’t need to have that closure. They will have questions. They will feel abandoned. ‘Why are you leaving me here — where are you going?’ Ask a member of the staff to assist you with redirecting your loved one until it gets more comfortable for you to leave without saying goodbye. It will get easier.
Jenn Mogle, Garden Place Coordinator
Carillon of Hillsborough
Posted in Alzheimer's and Dementia Care, Perspectives on Alzheimer's, Resources on March 14, 2013