Visiting Benefits Seniors with Alzheimer’s and Dementia January 09 2013
Whether a senior living with Alzheimer's disease resides in a home setting or a memory-care community, loved ones and friends often find it difficult or uncomfortable to visit. A memory-loss condition profoundly affects how one interacts with the person who has it. The disease can cause the person to say and do things that are out of character from how they were prior to being diagnosed. Engagement and conversations will become increasingly problematic and determining what to do or say can be challenging. Family members and friends sometimes wonder if a visit is really of value considering it is often soon forgotten. But, even though he or she may quickly forget, the personal connection for a person with Alzheimer's disease has value and can leave them with a lingering feeling of happiness and well-being.
Tips for a Successful Visit
Visits from family and friends offer a variety of benefits. To increase the likelihood of a pleasant experience, it is important to remember some simple things to more effectively interact with a person who has a memory-loss condition.
When visiting a person with Alzheimer’s disease, be conscious of the surroundings. Locate a quiet, comfortable setting free of distractions—such as television or music—to allow the person to fully focus on you. Also, be aware of your own body language. Always approach the person from the front, position your head at the same level as theirs, and make eye contact. Make sure you have his or her attention prior to speaking. Call the person by name and remind them who you are if he or she does not seem to recognize you.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, conducting a conversation becomes more and more of a challenge. The tempo of your speech and the tone of your voice are very important. Speak slowly in a gentle tone, using simple words and short sentences. Avoid talking to the person as if they were a child. If the person doesn’t understand what you’re saying, don’t repeat yourself verbatim; try rephrasing the thought in a different fashion. When asking a question, choose a closed-ended—yes or no—question. Avoid starting any question with, “Do you remember?” Assume he or she does not. Be patient and allow enough time for a response as it may take longer for the person to fully process the thought. If you recognize the person is struggling to find a word, try to gently provide the word he or she is looking for. After a response, acknowledge their contribution in a positive manner and encourage further discussion. If you feel you are working too hard trying to conduct a conversation, just sitting together quietly creates a feeling of comfort and security.
Activities are a great way to promote engagement and can be beneficial to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Simple activities are often best; however, consider the person’s current abilities. Reminiscing is an excellent activity, and utilizing photographs as visual cues provides a way to engage a person with memory loss. Consider reviewing a collection of old photographs, a family photo album, or sharing a book or magazine with large photographs. Explain the activity prior to beginning and break it down into small, simple steps. Also, watch for signs of frustration or agitation. Sometimes 15 or 20 minutes of interaction is all someone can tolerate.
Remember, a visit is important to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. People who are experiencing memory loss—regardless if they remember the visit—are left with warm feelings and a sense that life is worth living. In addition, a visitor’s presence, support, and attention can communicate acceptance, reassurance, and affection, thereby improving his or her overall quality of life.
Shadowbox Press products are developed to provide an easy and effective way to enhance the quality of engagement with seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Our collection of interactive books and conversation cards are designed to evoke memories, prompt conversations, and engage adults in an enjoyable, meaningful activity. For more information or to place your order, call us toll-free at (888) 796-6333.