How to Have a Meaningful Visit with Someone Living 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’re visiting a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can be an emotionally difficult process, due to memory and behavioral problems that can often affect Alzheimer’s patients. The nature of the disease is that a patient’s cognitive abilities, moods, and behavior can shift day by day, hour by hour.

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. Just like any meeting or trip, you are about to embark on, it’s important to take time to plan for a visit with a loved one who has a form of dementia. It can be a rewarding and joyful experience depending on how you take charge of the visit.

Below are our recommendations to help your visit go more smoothly and ensure a successful visit:

  • Keep it simple. When you keep visits simple, it can make for the best experience during a visit. Don’t overwhelm the person with too many tasks, activities, or too many people.
  • Prepare for the unexpected. Sometimes a loved one’s condition might have changed rapidly since you last visited them. it’s important to prepare mentally and emotionally for this possibility. It’s best to check with the staff ahead of time to ask when your loved one is at their best for a visit.
  • Introduce yourself. If your loved one has always recognized you before, introducing yourself helps avoid stress and embarrassment when they don’t. Identify yourself each time if your loved one doesn’t know who you are. If they don’t seem to know who you are, it is still okay to visit and spend time together.
  • Keep your visit brief. If you limit your visit to an hour or less, you and your loved one might be more likely to enjoy your time together. Make sure that the length of the visit doesn’t run too long. It’s quite common for people with dementia to quickly shift between moods.
  • Always do your best to minimize distractions during your visit. It helps to keep the environment quiet and calm if possible. This means that you should turn off the television or any loud music. If there is anyone around who is not part of your visit, ask them to leave the room or move your visit to a quieter location if possible.
  • Do not take things personally. Loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia do not have control over their actions. If they have trouble conveying 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.
  • 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.
  • Be kind. Practice patience and compassion for the patient, and importantly be kind to yourself. Those who have lived or cared for people with dementia know it can be challenging.
  • Keep your visiting even if your loved one doesn’t know who you are. If they do not recognize you, they know that your presence alone brings comfort to them.

As a loving family member, you naturally want the best care for your loved one. Your visit creates treasured moments that have a profound impact. Keeping in mind that visiting a loved one is about caring and connection. If you are in need of support or would like to chat about skills needed to interact with someone living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, we encourage you to contact or visit one of our local offices to speak with a member of our team. 

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