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Ingleside at Rock Creek Blog

Posted: Monday, December 23, 2019

5 Suggestions for Visiting a Resident in Memory Care

If you have a loved one or friend who lives in a memory care community, you may find yourself hesitating to visit. Understanding dementia is a challenge. It’s not that uncommon to put off visiting if you’re unsure of what to expect or worry that you’ll make the situation worse.

If you’re struggling with how to interact, there are several tips that might work best for your particular situation. Here are 5 ideas to help make your visits a positive experience for everyone.

  1. Prepare for the visit

If you don’t have much experience or knowledge about cognitive impairment, it’s important to gain a better understanding of what to expect before you visit. Several on-line resources,  including the Alzheimer’s Association, are available that discuss characteristics and behaviors, but speaking to a team member at your loved one’s community can also provide valuable ideas and suggestions.  

Although flexibility is a vital skill when you have a family member or friend with dementia, it’s usually not a good idea to show up without a plan for how the two of you might spend your time together. A visit can be much more enjoyable if you first consider how to create the right environment.

Start by asking what time of day might be best and how long your visit should last. People with cognitive challenges tend to have a daily pattern when they are at their best. For example, evenings can be harder for many, so it could be better to schedule your visit for mornings or early afternoon.

  1. Adjust your expectations

Although you want to be prepared, it’s important not to set your expectations too high. The behavior and reactions from someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can easily and unpredictably change. If you have predetermined ideas of how the visit will go, you may end up feeling disappointed and leave your loved one frustrated and confused.

Have a few ideas of what you can try so if one doesn’t work, you can attempt something else. If they become upset when people leave or you struggle with how to end the visit, it can help to coordinate when it’s time for them to go to the dining room or participate in a program. Remember, the purpose of the visit is to show your loved one that there are people who care. Even if you didn’t get the response you were hoping for, the message isn’t necessarily lost.

  1. Activities you can share

Working on a project together can take the pressure off trying to think of things to talk about, especially for those who are becoming less verbal or struggle to follow a conversation. Sharing interests or taking part in an activity that brings the person joy can be one of the best ways to encourage a pleasant visit. It can be easier if your conversations are focused on what is happening at the moment.

What are the best activities to share? It depends on your loved one and yourself. A good place to start is to consider what hobbies or interests they had or continue to enjoy. If you don’t know, ask a family member how they spent their time. But it’s important not to disagree or argue with someone with dementia, a response that visitors can often have. Meet them wherever they may be cognitively that day. Arguing about a misstated name or forgotten detail won’t help them remember but your disagreement will be an unpleasant experience for you both.

  1. Include the person you’re visiting in the planning

If it’s possible, ask your loved one or friend what they would like to do during your visit. If they’re able, including them in the decision helps engage their independence. However, it’s usually a good idea to limit the number of choices offered, such as asking if they’d like to read a book together or go for a walk. It may also be better to limit the choice to a yes or no answer, for example asking if they’d like to watch a movie.

Creating a guest book for visitors to be left in the room can also help the person remember who has been by to see them. It’s a great aid for visitors to look through and talk about who had been there and what they did. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. It can be a simple journal or notebook that includes the name and date of the visit and how they spent their time together.

  1. What if they’re no longer able to be a part of a conversation?

People often believe there’s little to be gained if the person you’re visiting is no longer able to participate in a conversation. But that’s not true. It’s important to remember that there’s more than one way to communicate with someone. It’s still possible to enjoy each other’s company, so you may need to search a little further to find what might work best.

Spending time together can still be meaningful and even fun. Another inaccurate assumption family and friends may make is that someone with dementia is no longer capable of having a good time. Keep trying ideas that might help you connect, such as reading, listening to music together or joining them in art therapy or another activity in the community. A quiet walk together or sitting out in the sunshine can be a wonderful way to spend a day.

Making your visit memorable

The effort you put in to make your visit go smoothly is worth it. Even those who may not remember who you are can still enjoy having visitors. People can recall that someone came to see them even if they can’t say who the person was or define their relationship. They can still appreciate the company.

Ingleside Memory Support Assisted Living

Our team is here to help and support both your family and your loved one. We understand the challenges of visiting someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia and are a great resource for you if you need help.

Please call (202) 905-0018 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.


Ingleside at Rock Creek: Engaged Living




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