A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s may also mean a diagnosis for loneliness. Though remaining social remains critically important for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, multiple factors can lead to an increase in isolation, including:
- Symptoms of the disease that make it challenging to communicate effectively
- Discomfort on the part of friends and family who are unsure what to say (or not to say)
- The need to discontinue driving
- And much more
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, a good time to learn strategies for Alzheimer’s visits that will help you overcome any obstacles to staying connected to someone you love.
How Do I Alleviate My Discomfort Over Visiting Someone With Dementia?
First, know you are not alone in feeling uncomfortable or awkward. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can cause some unpredictable and challenging behaviors. The person you know has changed. You might wonder if they will even recognize you, and if not, is it even worth visiting?
The reality is that even if the individual is confused about who you are, the opportunity to spend time with a friendly companion is invaluable. Plan to leave your personal feelings regarding the visit at the door when you arrive. Concentrate solely on how you can bring happiness to the person you love by putting on a caring, positive, and nonjudgmental attitude.
When you approach the individual for your visit, keep these strategies for Alzheimer’s visits in mind:
- Introduce yourself in brief, to-the-point sentences: “Hi, Aunt Jill. I’m Sally, your niece. It is so good to see you.”
- Bring an activity to share: pictures to look at together, some memorabilia to make a connection to the past, music to listen to, a simple craft or hobby, etc.
- Ask questions that include an either-or choice: “I brought some treats. Would you like a cookie or a muffin?”
- Take a seat if the person is seated to make sure you remain at eye level.
- Make eye contact.
- Step into any alternate reality role the person may be experiencing. For example, they might believe they are a teacher preparing for an upcoming class. Continue the conversation in line with their lead and direction.
- Expect that the person might not answer a question or react to a statement. Allow periods of silence, knowing that just being there is beneficial.
- Relax your body posture.
- Use a calm, slow style of speaking.
Try not to…
- Talk to them as if they were a child.
- Ask if they remember a person or event, which could cause frustration and confusion.
- Talk about them with other individuals in the room, as if they aren’t there.
- Argue with or correct the individual.
- Take anything personally or let it hurt your feelings. People who have Alzheimer’s may say things they don’t mean, yell, or curse. This is a direct effect of the disease, and not coming from the individual.
- Show any frustration, anger, fear, or other negative emotions. The person will pick up on your body language and tone of voice and respond accordingly.
How Else Can I Help Someone With Dementia Have a Better Quality of Life?
One of the best ways to help is by partnering with Home With You Senior Care. Our dementia care experts are fully trained and experienced in all aspects of Alzheimer’s disease care. We serve as skilled companions to allow for regular social connections for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We can also provide a number of resources, educational materials, and tips to help make life the best it can be for someone you love.