How to Have a Successful Visit With a Loved One with Alzheimer’s
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you may not know what to expect when you visit. You may fear your loved one will not remember you, you won’t know what to say or you will not know how to act. There is not one specific roadmap for what you and your loved one’s journey through Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will bring; however, there is plenty that can be done in order to ensure a successful visit with your loved one, no matter who is visiting.
One of the best ways to make sure you have a successful visit with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is to prepare ahead of time, according to Edward Toy, Director of Sales and Marketing at Lions Gate, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Voorhees, New Jersey. “While you may not know what to expect, it can help to anticipate events that may occur. For example,” says Ed, “it’s highly possible your loved one may not recognize you at first. If this happens, it’s important to realize it is a part of the disease. If your loved one gets easily agitated or confused about what is going on, or thinks you are someone you are not, avoid correcting or arguing with them as this will only make them more agitated. The first couple of visits may continue to be worrisome for you or other family members; however, over time you will begin to get used to the challenges that the disease presents. Once you become more comfortable, the more successful and easier the visits will become.”
The Alzheimer’s Association® states that visiting a loved one with dementia can evoke a wide array of emotions. It can be a rewarding and joyful experience depending on how you take charge of the visit. In order to have a healthy and successful visit with your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, try the following suggestions for visiting and engaging with your loved one.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN VISITING YOUR LOVED ONE WITH ALZHEIMER’S OR DEMENTIA
As Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia progress, your loved one may have a harder time recognizing who you or other family members and friends are. For this reason, it can help to introduce yourself. Refrain from asking if your loved one remembers you or knows who you are, as this can cause them to become upset. In order to ensure a successful visit, keep this tip and the following in mind:
Keep it simple. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s® article, keeping visits simple can make for the best experience during a visit. Loud and noisy places can cause those with Alzheimer’s or dementia to become agitated and stressed. To combat this, try finding a calm, quiet and comfortable place where you can be alone and less distracted.
Lower your expectations. It’s highly possible your visit may not go exactly as you had expected. Your loved one may not be as lucid as you would like; they may be more unsettled than normal; or they may even revert to their own version of reality. Just hold their hand, reassure them you are there for them and that you love them. While your visit may not go as planned, enjoy the time you spend with them.
Do not take things personally. Loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia do not have control over their actions. If they cannot convey themselves or their thoughts the right way or if they lash out in anger at you, it is most likely not because you did anything wrong, but because they do not know how to communicate with you. Try not to take this personally, as many times this has nothing to do with you and they are simply frustrated because they are trying their best.
Be flexible. If you had activities planned for you and your loved one to enjoy together, be prepared for the plans to change. When visiting someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, especially in the later stages, you will need to be flexible. The article states that activities may need to be switched around and changed out, as what used to work when visiting your loved one may not work as well the next time. Be flexible and have more than one activity available, just in case.
ACTIVITIES TO ENGAGE YOUR LOVED ONE WHILE VISITING
According to the Alzheimer’s Association®, when visiting your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it can help to plan activities that “engage several senses and have meaning for your loved one.” The following ideas can be personalized based on your loved one’s abilities and interests.
Listen to music. If your loved one used to play an instrument or loved to sing, put favorite songs on. Music is known to connect those with memory loss to their past and can help to lighten their mood, make them able to remember past memories and even potentially dance.
Reminisce together. If your loved one is particularly connected to a specific part of the past, talk about it. Go through old photo albums and tell stories about the people in the photographs. Try to talk mainly about events that happened in his or her younger days, as those memories are easier to recall than more recent ones.
Make something. No matter if it’s art, music or a memory box, just start making something. Art in any form is therapeutic and can help your loved one to release some stress that they have been carrying with them. Your loved one may be able to convey their emotions through paint better than through words. They may not be able to remember many old stories, but if they see a picture in a memory box it might become easier to recall that moment. Making something together cannot only help you and your loved one connect, but it can be a crucial outlet for them, as well.
ENSURING SUCCESSFUL MEMORY CARE AT LIONS GATE
“At Lions Gate, we provide a range of programs and activities specially designed to cater to those with various forms of memory loss,” says Ed. “Whether your loved one is in the beginning stages or the more progressive stages, we have purposeful and enjoyable activities to enhance your loved one’s communication and improve their social skills so that you can just focus on being with your loved one and spending your time connecting with them.”
EXPERIENCE LIFESTYLE, CARE, COMMUNITY AND TRADITION AT LIONS GATE
Lions Gate, located in Voorhees, NJ, offers a continuum of lifestyle and care options rooted in Jewish traditions and values. Whether you are in need of Independent Living,Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing or Rehabilitation Services, Lions Gate has you covered.
Our mission at Lions Gate is to enrich the lives of those we serve through quality and compassionate care consistent with our heritage and values. We strive to provide programs and services that inspire well-being, as well as social, cultural and spiritual independence.
As a full-service community rich in wellness programs, meaningful experiences and educational opportunities from Lions Gate University, Lions Gate allows residents to connect with those who share their interests and cherished traditions. Our goal is to provide residents with an active, worry-free lifestyle filled with ways to connect with others, pursue their passions and be engaged in everyday life. While we focus on Jewish customs and traditions, we welcome people of all faiths to the Lions Gate family.
Through our affiliation with Jewish Senior Housing and Healthcare Service, we also offer three senior living communities for those with limited incomes.