If you keep these 11 tips in mind, you can make visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s a wonderful experience.
If you have a relative with Alzheimer’s, you know that visiting them isn’t always easy. The good news is, you have the power to turn that time together into a meaningful and pleasant experience for everyone. How? By following a few simple rules about visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
We’re going to break those rules up into two categories: The things that will make your visit, and the things that could break it.
6 tips that can make your visit to a loved one with Alzheimer’s:
- Introduce yourself. You might think that introducing yourself is unnecessary. Doesn’t your loved one know who you are? But Alzheimer’s can be fickle. Once your relative is past the first stage, they might recognize you one day and have no clue who you are the next. So when you walk in, it’s always a good idea to say, “Hi Dad, it’s me, Zack.” If Dad says, “Hello, son,” great. If he looks at you with a blank stare then you can add, “Yeah, it’s me, Zack, your son.”
- Keep eye contact. Maintain eye contact as much as possible, and always stay at your loved one’s eye level.
- Remember that silence is okay. We all have those times when we’d rather not talk. If you see that your loved one is quiet today, that’s fine. Let it be. Companionable silence is much better than a forced conversation.
- Let them lead the conversation. Allow your loved one to set the pace and the tone. The subject, too. Just go wherever they take it and follow along. It doesn’t matter if what they’re saying makes sense or not. What you want here is the bonding that comes from a positive interaction.
- Give space to their feelings. Alzheimer’s is frightening and those who suffer from it experience a huge range of emotions: anger, fear, panic, frustration, you name it. If your loved one is having an emotional event, give them room. Let them express their feelings and validate them. Of course, if expressing their feelings means being violent, you need to call for backup.
- Talk about the past. Seniors in general and Alzheimer’s patients in particular like talking about the past. Bring up old childhood stories, shared memories, ask questions about their parents or even their grandparents.
Now let’s get into the second category.
5 things that could break your visit:
- Correcting mistakes. If your loved one gets information mixed up – whether they mix up a date or think their long-gone Aunt Daisy is still alive – don’t correct them. It doesn’t matter. Just go with it and don’t argue.
- Don’t speak loudly. Loud noises and voices are extremely disturbing to Alzheimer’s patients. Keep the atmosphere calm and quiet. Don’t talk quickly, either; that will make the conversation really hard for your loved one to follow.
- Don’t take it personally. Alzheimer’s patients can say mean and nasty things sometimes. Let it slide and don’t take it personally – because they don’t mean it. Remind yourself that it isn’t your loved one talking; it’s the disease.
- Don’t talk about them in their presence. If another relative drops by, or a staff member knocks, don’t talk about your loved one as if they weren’t there. What if the person asks, “So how’s Grandma today?” Answer, “Let’s ask. Grandma, how are you today?”
- Don’t challenge their memory. It might be tempting, but do not ever say things like, “What, you don’t remember?” It’s painful and humiliating.
So there you have it: 11 tips that can make it or break it when you’re visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Do you have any of your own?