Tips for Visiting Someone with Dementia over the Holidays
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can get a little stressful for all of us. This can be even more so for those living with memory loss. Family and friends want to visit, check in and take them to gatherings. But, sometimes that can all be too much, leaving you and the person with dementia frustrated. When memory loss is a factor for someone you care about it is imperative that you look at the situation from their perspective. People living with dementia are often trying to make sense of their surroundings while their mind is failing, then add the people and commotion of an indoor gathering. It is still important to spend time with your loved ones that have dementia, but you need to have a different perspective and approach.
Here are some tips that may help:
Plan your visit – visit when it is best for the person with dementia (typically in the morning) and be flexible with the amount of time you stay. You may have planned on staying for 2 hours, but after 30 minutes it is clear they have had enough. Know when others are planning to stop in and plan a different time to visit.
Plan for others - If you are bringing small children with you, bring an activity for the kids to do. You loved one with dementia can watch the children play and get involved if they want to.
Educate yourself – if you only visit during the holidays, talk to others that help support the person with dementia to understand what stage they are in, as well as what their likes and dislikes are. See if you can find an activity you can do together.
Keep it simple – even in the early stages of memory loss, people can miss 25% of the conversation! To keep it short and sweet, and use these tips:
a. Use eye contact
b. Use their name to get their attention
c. Use gestures to get your point across
d. Never say “do you remember me?” Introduce yourself
e. Eliminate as much background noise as you can (radio, tv)
f. Give them extra time to comprehend and respond to your questions
g. Limit questions
h. Do not argue or correct them – just go with the flow of the conversation and enter their reality for a little while.
i. Don’t talk down to them, they are not children, know that they are doing the best they can.
5. Bring a thoughtful gift - This will run the gamut, but think about your loved one and try to tap into what they like. This may be a framed picture of the two of you, a family photo album, doing a list of chores around the house they can no longer do, or bringing them a meal. If you need more inspiration, check out www.alzstore.com or on amazon.com, search “gifts for people with dementia”.
And just as important, if your loved one with dementia has a family caregiver living with them. Give that caregiver some extra love and support.