A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s may also mean a diagnosis for loneliness. Though remaining social continues to be vitally important for people who have dementia, numerous factors lead to an increase in isolation, such as:
- The need to discontinue driving
- Discomfort on the part of family and friends who are unsure what to say (or not to say)
- Symptoms of the disease that make it challenging to communicate effectively
- And more
September is World Alzheimer’s Month and a good time to heed our expert advice for visiting older loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
How Do I Alleviate My Discomfort Over Visiting Older Loved Ones With Dementia?
First, know you’re not alone in feeling awkward or uncomfortable. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can trigger some unpredictable and difficult behaviors. Your loved one is different now. You might wonder if they will even recognize you, and if not, should you even visit?
The reality is that even when the individual is unsure of who you are, the opportunity to spend time with a friendly companion is important. Plan to leave your personal feelings about the visit at the door when you arrive. Focus your attention solely on how you can bring joy to the person you love by putting on a nonjudgmental, caring, and positive attitude.
When you approach the person for your visit, keep these to-dos and not-to-dos in mind:
- Sit down if the person is seated to make sure you remain at eye level.
- Ask questions that include an either-or choice: “I brought some treats. Do you want a cookie or a muffin?”
- Make eye contact.
- Step into any alternate reality roles the person may be experiencing. For example, they may believe they are a school teacher preparing for an upcoming class. Continue the conversation based on their lead and direction.
- Introduce yourself in brief, to-the-point sentences: “Hi, Aunt Jill. I am Sally, your niece. It is so good to see you.”
- Use a calm, slow manner of speaking.
- Expect that the person may not answer a question or respond to a statement. Allow moments of silence, knowing that just being there is beneficial.
- Relax your body posture.
- Bring an activity to share: pictures to look at together, some memorabilia to make a connection with the past, music to listen to, a simple craft or hobby, etc.
Try not to…
- Ask if they remember a person or event, which can cause confusion or frustration.
- Speak to them as though they were a child.
- Take anything personally or allow it to hurt your feelings. Those with dementia may yell, curse, or say things they don’t mean. This is an effect of the disease, and not coming from your loved one.
- Show any fear, frustration, anger, or other negative emotions. The person will recognize your body language and tone of voice and respond accordingly.
- Talk about them with other individuals in the room, as if they aren’t there.
- Argue with or correct the individual.
How Else Can I Help Someone With Alzheimer’s Live a Better Quality of Life?
One of the best ways to help is by partnering with Live Free Home Health Care. Our dementia care experts are fully trained and experienced in all aspects of dementia care. We serve as skilled companions to allow for regular social connections with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We can also offer a variety of resources, educational materials, and suggestions to help make life the best it can be for someone you love.