By Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford’s Memory Care Coordinator
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, it changes the way friends and family interact with the person. Knowing what to say, or even how to act, can be challenging. The individual may not remember those who come to visit or remember prior visits.
When visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s you may hear questions such as, “Why don’t you ever visit?” or “Who are you?” Such questions, as well as behavioral changes that accompany the disease, can make visiting difficult and uncomfortable.
However, there are some things you can do to help ease the discomfort and make your visit more pleasant for you and your loved one.
- Focus on feelings – the content of the conversation doesn’t matter. The feelings and sense of contentment created will make a difference. Emotion lasts longer than memory. The emotion resulting from a positive visit can improve a person’s mood and influence the rest of the day.
- Accept the person’s reality- don’t correct your loved one, just go along with it. If the person insists the grass is blue, agree. Telling the individual it’s really green can create agitation. Instead, offer reassurance and distraction.
- Introduce yourself- avoid saying “Don’t you remember me?” because if the person doesn’t, it can be embarrassing. Introduce yourself with “Hi Mom, this is Susan.” Save her the embarrassment or awkward moment.
- Be respectful- don’t talk to Alzheimer’s patients like they are children. They have a lifetime of experiences, so show them the respect they deserve.
- Bring an activity – long-term memory is often still intact. Reminiscing with pictures or photo albums can be comforting and encourage conversation. Play music or sing. Consider Music Therapy. Music can stir positive emotions, and individuals may be able to remember lyrics even though their ability to communicate has declined. Exercise improves brain circulation. Encourage movement of arms and legs, or toss a beach ball. Introduce your loved one to a GeriJoy Companion, a special tablet which provides social interaction, helps decrease loneliness and has shown remarkable success with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
- Touch – hold a hand, stroke hair, hug. Touch is a powerful way to communicate when words fail. People with dementia recognize a caring touch, even in the late stages of the disease.
- Minimize distractions – it will be more difficult to have a meaningful visit if there is too much noise or activity. Over stimulation can cause agitation. Try to find a quiet place or take a walk outside.
If you know someone with Alzheimer’s and are hesitant to visit, remember that the benefit of your visit may last long after you’ve gone.
For additional support or information, contact Oxford HealthCare. Oxford offers numerous programs that provide the help and relief you need—so you can enjoy time with your loved one and continue to provide care at home. For your peace of mind, advanced technology like Lifeline and GeriJoy helps provide added security when you can’t be with your loved one. To find out more about all Oxford has to help families, contact a Care Coordinator, today.