Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can feel emotionally and mentally draining. However, don’t feel discouraged as you’re not alone. It might feel counterintuitive at the time, but visiting a family member with Alzheimer’s can actually have many benefits.
It takes certain skills to help the visit go smoothly. Learning some useful tips to help the transition go as well as possible will be beneficial for all involved.
The Alzheimer’s Society is encouraging family and friends to stay active in the lives of their loved ones. Here are some tips from LivingPath to help you plan a positive visit.
Tips For Visiting A Family Member With Alzheimer’s
When preparing to visit a family member with Alzheimer’s, you may naturally think of ways to make the visit great for them. However, the initial steps of planning the visit should start with you.
First, set some realistic expectations for your visit. There are various stages of the disease and each one comes with it’s own struggles. You might visit on a not-so-great day and their behavior might seem off, or they might feel anxious, silly, and stressed. This is not a reflection of your relationship but symptoms of the disease.
It’s best to prepare yourself for the unexpected, but try your best to keep your behavior and actions consistent. Sometimes routines, schedules, and consistency can help create a positive visit.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Communication Tips For Your Visit
Over the course of the disease, it might feel harder and harder to communicate with your loved one. While preparing for a visit, communication is key. Here are some tips to help you communicate better.
This might seem obvious. You’re the daughter, son, granddaughter or favorite niece. Your family member might have some trouble remembering who you are or what your relationship is, maybe not all the time, but a good habit would be to introduce yourself at every visit. It will create a good routine and also save you both from any frustration.
Although it may feel like you’re dealing with a child at times, be mindful that your loved one is an adult who has lived a long and meaningful life. Try your best not to talk down to them. Their memory might not be what it once was, but it’s important to treat them with the same respect you normally would.
Limiting distractions from your visit will help to keep the communication as clear as possible. Put your cell phone away for the time you’re visiting. If you’re in a noisy room, ask if they want to go for a walk or move into a quieter space. Having too much noise and distractions can cause anxiety and stress.
When your loved one is having difficulty getting their thoughts across, try to stay calm. Try not to interrupt them and encourage them to explain themselves as best they can.
Use Simple Language
When talking to your loved ones, be sure to speak slowly. Try to use simple sentences and don’t use slang. Using clear sentences instead of questions will help them focus on their own response and prevent confusion. Give them extra time to think, speak, and answer questions.
Communication Tips: How To Help With Memory
Just because your loved one might not remember everything at first, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reminisce about the past. In fact, talking about past events and asking questions about their life will often help spark a memory.
When visiting your loved one with Alzheimer’s there are a few ways you can help them to remember a thought or even a feeling.
Try bringing a scrapbook or old photo album. This might help with their memory but it is also a delightful way to engage them. You can discuss people in the family, give family updates and your life updates. Visuals are a great way to spark engagement.
Talk about current events, things that are going on within the community and in the world.
Don’t let the disease take over the memory of the person you love. At one time in their life, they lived without the disease. They had love, passions, interests, and hobbies. Have conversations about things they used to be able to physically enjoy. Refer them to books and puzzles, or bring them a small gift to help spark conversation.
How Socialization Can Help Your Loved One
Socialization is good for a loved one suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Here are some reasons experts encourage social visits.
- A Sense of Belonging. Interacting with others can give a person a sense of personal worth, the feeling of belonging and purpose.
- Brain Health. Science shows that people who have more social experiences during the early stages of Alzheimer’s can help slow down the progression of memory loss. Having a small social network and isolation can often times speed of the effects of the disease.
- Connection to Structured Time. Having social visits gives people with memory loss normal structure. It helps them connect time, place, rather than continuous time with no start and end points.
- Maintaining Focus. Having social visits helps your loved one focus on the activity they are doing. Spending their brain power on socialization also helps them complete tasks they need for everyday living.
Socialization in a safe, structured and positive environment can be really beneficial to your loved one. It can make a positive impact and improve quality of life for them. You can search for safe memory care communities that provide professional, specialized care on LivingPath. Consistent socialization can help keep them healthy and connected.
Creating Positive Emotions
Often times family members think that the person they are visiting won’t remember the visit anyway, so why bother going.
Research actually says that it’s not the memory that matters, but the emotion created from the visit. Positive emotions often last longer than a memory.
It might not be noticeable by you in the moment, but positive emotions could change the entire day for that person. Their behavior, feelings, and interactions with others could be significantly improved by your visit.
Visiting A Family Member With Alzheimer’s
Although it can sometimes feel like you’re making no difference when visiting your family member with Alzheimer’s, stay positive and keep at it. You may not recognize it, but keeping your loved one social, involved, and connected can really make a positive impact on their health.
It’s important to plan your visit strategically for both yourself and your family member. Prepare your visit as best you can with some of the tips shared by LivingPath.
Enjoy the time you have with your loved one and accept their current situations with the disease. This will help create a less stressful visit for both of you. Remember to take pictures so you can reflect on past visits.