773 E. Haverford Road • Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

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Making Visits to Loved Ones with Memory Loss Meaningful

The thought of visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can seem rather unsettling. What do I say? How should I act? Will he or she even know who I am and what is happening?

It is perfectly natural and quite understandable for people to feel apprehensive about such a visit. Also, for family members and close friends, it is often difficult to view the progressive effects of memory loss and accept the changes that have occurred in the person they have known and loved.

Visits Are Important for Those with Memory Loss

Still, experts in the field of Alzheimer’s therapy tell us that various types of social interaction have important benefits to those living with dementia, and have proven to increase their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. These benefits are often seen in the form of reduced anxiety, agitation and apathy, as well as improvements in overall mood and levels of engagement.

It has been said a visit to a person living with memory loss is also a gift to their caregiver, as it can provide them with some welcome respite from theirvery busy and often exhausting role. To make visits by family members and friends seem less daunting, we’ll provide some helpful tips that can make your visit a meaningful one which benefits the loved one as well as their primary caregiver.

When Making a Visit, Be Calm and Remain Positive

Monique Carter, RN, Wellness Director at Impressions Memory Care, says, “Bringing a positive attitude and a calm, confident demeanor can be key to having a pleasant, meaningful visit.Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are often very intuitive and can be sensitive to your mood. If you seem anxious, stressed or hurried, it could in turn make them feel agitated and uncomfortable. This, of course, is not productive for anyone.”  

Tips to Make Your Visit a Successful One

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Caregiver newsletter article, Positive Attitude: The Key to Successful Visiting and Holiday Gift Giving,” there are some general steps you can taketo help achieve a satisfying visit – for you, the person with dementia and their primary caregiver.

These include:

  • Introduce yourself, and call the person by name before every verbal interaction with them (e.g. “Lillian, it is so nice to see you!”).
  • Do not ask the person if they remember you. By saying this, you are constantly reminding the person of their deficits.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation to show you are listening.
  • Make sure you approach the individual from the front and at their eye level.
  • Show your love and affection. You can use touch to let them know you care.
  • Reduce the stimulation around you. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • Talk to the person like an adult in brief, easy-to-understand sentences. Don’t “talk down” or use “baby talk” with them.
  • Relate to their former interests. This can be used as a trigger for a positive response. For example, take a fishing magazine for the former angler or a fashion magazine for the woman who loved clothing.
  • Bring items from the past with you. Photo albums are great for reminiscing. While recent memories may have faded for the individual, past memories are often vivid and clear. Photos from the past can spark conversation, elicit fond memories and make for a wonderful visit.
  • Don’t ask numerous questions. It is better to make statements. Instead of, “Are you enjoying the beautiful summer weather?” say, “It has been so beautiful this summer.”
  • Plan on a short visit. If you visit for short intervals, you are more likely to have a successful interaction.
  • Never say “goodbye” at the end of a visit. It is better not to draw attention to the fact that you are leaving. Try saying, “I love you” instead.

Adds Carter, “When you visit a person with memory loss, always keep the big picture in mind. The most important thing is that the person has a positive experience, whether they remember who you are or not. Visits also provide an important sense of support for their primary caregiver. It reminds them that they are not alone and they have others around them who are supportive and care about their loved one.”

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions on our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences. Please share your stories in the comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Our brand-new Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr community provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family,” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If, and when, the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5400, or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House/Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.