Pacifica Senior Living Blog

11 Tips for Visiting Residents with Dementia or Memory Conditions

Jul 6, 2022 2:23:13 PM / by Pacifica Senior Living

While we love visiting with our loved ones, family members and friends, interacting with individuals with later stage dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease can have its hurdles. When memories and speech skills are impaired, our loved one may have difficulty communicating with us in the same ways they used to. But there are still lots of ways you can make your time with your loved one meaningful. Here are some tips for making the most out of your visit, and ensuring the best possible experience for you both. 

  1. Plan Ahead

    Dropping in on a loved one can be startling and disorienting. Even if they don’t remember that you made a plan, planning ahead to ensure you are not interrupting their daily routine or schedule will help your visit go as smoothly as possible. Talk to caregivers and staff about the best time of day to visit - they may suggest you attend during a certain activity, or help you avoid interrupting programming. For a lot of individuals with memory conditions, visiting in the late morning or early afternoon is ideal. Similarly, sunset is usually a particularly difficult time for those with memory loss, so avoid late visits or dinner times.

  2. Short Visits

    When possible, it is best to plan regular, but short visits. It is easy for those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s and similar conditions to get tired or overwhelmed. Short visits provide the opportunity to make meaningful connections without overtasking anyone.

  3. Be flexible

    It’s important to remember that you need to adjust to your loved one’s needs, and not the other way around. While you might want to include your loved one in everything you have going on, they may not fully understand the complexities of your life anymore. Adjusting your communication style and conversation topics to best suit your loved one’s needs will help you both feel more at ease and enjoy your time together.

  4. Remember That this is Out of Their Control

    Especially in early stages of memory loss, it is easy for us to start reminding our loved ones of things they’ve forgotten. Avoid using sayings like “don’t you remember’ or ‘we talked about this already” - while these phrases may seem like a harmless way to remind your loved one that they are forgetting things, you should remember that they cannot help what is happening in their brain. Pointing out their deficiencies will only confuse them, upset them, or make them feel bad - it is highly unlikely they will remember that they had this conversation with you before, so it’s not helpful to mention it. 
  1. Redirect Conversations in a Positive Way

Instead of pointing out what they have forgotten, try redirecting a conversation. This can be especially useful if your loved one gets stuck on a topic that they are asking you about repeatedly. No matter how patient you may be at first, inevitably you might become frustrated after answering the same question multiple times.

A good way to redirect is by answering, then changing the topic. Maybe the answer can ‘remind you of something’ that changes the topic to something more positive or engaging. If your loved one is asking about what they ordered for lunch, you might say “Pizza. That reminds me of when we used to make pizza every summer with the kids.” It is likely that your loved one still has long term memories, so redirecting to fond experiences is often a good way to redirect.

  1. Engage & Live in the Moment

    Because memories can become muddled, it is important to engage with those with memory conditions in the moment. Living in the now, and focusing on immediate things is a great way to ensure your loved one does not get confused. Comment on things around you, or enjoy an activity together. Spending time outside or in nature can be great for this - you can watch wildlife together, comment on the flowers or trees, or listen to birds chirping. 

  2. Listen

    Your loved one might not recall all the things you are trying to help them remember - and that is okay. Rather than prompting them to remember certain events, simply listening to them, and allowing them to share with you will help you both communicate more easily. Your loved one may talk about what happened that day, or 50 years ago, but it is a great way to let them share with you.

  3. Try an Activity

    The main difference in activities for people with memory conditions is focusing on something that is ‘failure-free’; this means you aren’t working towards a specific goal, outcome, or end product, but rather engaging in an activity or experience together. The activity should be fun, carefree, and without stress, so that those participating can feel good and build self-esteem while they are doing it, as well as help to alleviate boredom.

    People with memory conditions have a tendency to get more easily confused, so anything with detailed instructions or directions can be tricky. You don’t want anyone to feel as though they are struggling to do something correctly, or trying to make something ‘just right.’

  4. Connect Through Eye Contact and Touch

In later stages of memory loss, verbal communication can be lost. However, this does not mean that you can’t have meaningful visits with loved ones. Focusing on touch, and visual cues can be great aids. Gently point things out, make eye contact when speaking, hold hands, or offer a gentle hug. These moments of connection will help strengthen your bond and communication when speech is difficult.

  1. Educate Yourself

Adjusting to a loved one’s memory care condition can be difficult for you and them. Reading, watching webinars, or generally learning as much as you can about dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory conditions can help you and those around you better support your loved one and one another. 

The ALZ website is a great resource full of info and tips for dealing with Alzheimer's
Learn more here

  1. Patience & Self Care

    Those with dementia or memory conditions often require a lot of emotional support. Helping them through difficult times, confusing situations, or outbursts can be draining. It is important to remember not to be too hard on yourself. Have patience with your loved one, but also know that it is normal to feel frustration and sadness at times. Ensure you have a support system you can rely on, too. Whether this means swapping out visits with other friends and family members, having someone you can talk to - be it a friend or professional - and ensuring you have time to decompress after difficult visits is key to your health and the continued care of your loved one. 

If you would like to learn more about dealing with dementia, or transiting a loved one into memory care, you view our recent webinar here.

or read about our Memory Care options near you. 

Memory loss can be a disorienting time for us all, but it does not have to be an insurmountable hurdle. With patience, kindness, and some of these tips, you can help have calmer, more meaningful visits between you and your loved one.

Tags: Memory Care