Someone you know has dementia. Maybe it’s a friend or family member. Spending meaningful time with them is becoming more of a challenge. Their memory is at the point where they forget things you’ve discussed only minutes before, and you end up rehashing the same conversation with them several times during a visit.
You may even wonder whether they appreciate your visits since they can’t seem to recall the last time they saw you.
Maybe they’re becoming less communicative, or their behavior is becoming erratic.
You’re not sure what to do.
Tips for visiting someone with dementia in memory care
1. Let go of the urge to correct
The first thing to realize is that you may not be able to have the same kind of conversations with the person as you did in the past. If they forget something you just told them, avoid correcting them or saying things like, “We talked about that just a few minutes ago. Don’t you remember?” Chances are they genuinely don’t.
A better response is to acknowledge what they’ve said and then casually change the topic. Let go of the desire to correct them. It’s not going to help them, and it’s likely only going to frustrate you. The sooner you recognize that expecting them to behave “normally” is an unproductive exercise, the more likely you’ll have a successful visit.
2. Realize that fibbing is okay
In the same vein, there are times when it’s perfectly okay not to tell the truth, particularly if the truth is upsetting. It’s best to say things that comfort rather than distress the person, even if it means telling little white lies.
For instance, if the person with dementia asks after someone they love, and you know their loved one died a year ago, reminding them of the death will only make them relive their grief. Instead, come up with a positive, plausible cover story that comforts them.
For instance, if they keep asking when their deceased spouse is “coming home”, you could say something like “Oh, they went out for lunch with the guys / girls. You know how they like to talk.” Whatever might sound reasonable to the person with dementia.
3. Consider visiting early in the day
Many people with dementia are at their best from mid-morning to early or mid-afternoon. After that, they may be prone to restlessness and confusion, a phenomenon known as sundowning. Not everyone follows the same pattern, though. Keep in mind that most individuals with dementia tend to get tired later in the day, so dropping in for supper may not be the best option.
4. Use objects and activities
If just sitting and talking is difficult, spend time doing an activity together when you visit. Memory care units have a variety of activity supplies on hand that you may be able to borrow. For specific suggestions, check out our post on the topic.
5. Don’t give up
If your visit doesn’t go well, don’t be discouraged. Just because the person gets agitated or restless or doesn’t seem happy to see you, don’t take it as a sign that you shouldn’t visit again. It might simply have been a bad day for them. Things may be better the next time you see them. Try again.
More about memory care
At Sinceri, we provide support for people with dementia and their families every day. If you’re considering relocating a relative with dementia, our handy guide helps you understand whether moving to a community that provides memory care might be right for them. Download our complimentary Just the Facts: Memory Care guide here, or contact us today to talk with a team member or to schedule a tour.