Ten Things To Do When You Visit A Person With Dementia

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By Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

My mother had Alzheimer’s.  She was adorable and loving and maintained her personality until she died at almost 95 years of age.  I used to visit her weekly in her home and then, toward the end of her life, in the nursing home.

Managing her care inspired me to become a geriatric care manager myself.  I was already a Master’s level psychotherapist with many years of experience and a strong background in family dynamics.  Additional training in gerontology and volunteer work in the social service department of a fine nursing home enabled me to segue smoothly into my care management practice.

Visits with Mother were a labor of love and sometimes quite a challenge.  As is typical with dementia, Mother eventually lost her ability to initiate, and stay focused on, meaningful conversation, but selected activities helped us stay connected.  The activities that worked best for us changed out of necessity as her Alzheimer’s progressed.

Here are some of the things we did together that helped make our visits not only manageable but also more fun.  Create a list of your own to keep in mind when you visit.

  • Read a chapter out loud from a favorite book.
  • Look at a movie or TV program together.
  • Buy a goldfish or a plant that you can care for together.  (A dozen years later, I still remember the look of sheer delight on Mother’s face when she saw the goldfish, that bit of fiery orange life, darting around in its glass bowl!)
  • Catch up on what the grandchildren are doing.
  • Go out for a meal.  Help your parent decipher the menu and place the order.  (I would ask the waiter to cut up the food in the kitchen so that Mother wouldn’t have to struggle with it.)
  • Talk about old times — her childhood and youth, your childhood and youth.
  • Bring photographs of family and friends (don’t test for recognition — name the people in the picture yourself).
  • Turn on the radio and dance.
  • Watch a video of the grandchildren.
  • Just sit and hold hands.

A final pearl of wisdom:  keep activities simple and lively.  Enjoy the moments together!

Joan is a Geriatric Care Manager based in Fairfield County, Connecticut.  For information visit her web site  www.joanblumenfeld.com.  Copyright 2010 Joan Blumenfeld.

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3 Responses to “Ten Things To Do When You Visit A Person With Dementia”

  1. Adrienne says:

    Thanks for the info. Actually, I just got back from dinner with my mom and dad. I read this story and it was reassuring to me that I already had practiced some of the tips just this evening with my own mom. It’s good to have the reinforcement that we are handling this in the best way. Breaks my heart whenever I am with her.

  2. Martha says:

    One thing I read at the place my parents are is to not stand over them while talking.
    Sit down and speak face to face because no one likes to be stood over……I pulled up a chair immediately.

  3. karen says:

    Martha, I love this tip! So obvious when you mentioned it – but not something I would think of UNTIL you mentioned it. Thank you. ~Karen

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