ALLITY TOPICKS | December 2019

Dementia series – tips for visiting your loved one these holidays

20 December 2019
By Stephen Wiblin, Head of Clinical and Strategy & Development


Dementia series – tips for visiting your loved one these holidays

The festive season is a time for gatherings, family traditions and sharing food, drinks and holiday spirit. However, for your loved one living with dementia, it might also be a stressful time and they may have difficulty expressing their emotions. Whilst emotions may be high, your visit is very important for their emotional wellbeing.

Below are some tips to help you better communicate with your loved one during your visit.

Be patient and flexible

Visiting a family member or friend living with dementia is very beneficial for their emotional wellbeing. However, they may find it difficult to express their emotions. Be patient, remember your presence is very important to the person you are visiting.

Establish a visiting routine

Set up a routine for your visits and aim to stick to it. For example, time your visit around the individual’s usual schedule, to help them adjust. Consider establishing some structure by saying and doing the same things on arrival and departure each time you visit. It is also helpful to introduce yourself at the start of each visit. Say your name and your relationship to the person you are visiting. This will help reduce anxiety as you remind them who you are and the connection you have. Don’t make them guess.

Do an activity together

Taking part in an activity together can help your loved one feel comfortable and help with your conversations. For example, making a drink together or helping them with their food can remind them of old routines. Going for walk, playing an instrument or hanging out with a pet can also help them relax, and is beneficial for their emotional wellbeing.

You may want tostart a communication book, filled with important things to remember. This can be written in and read by all visitors and act as a memory prompt for your loved one.

Be a good listener and give them time to respond

Let your loved one have time to find the words they want to use. Don’t finish their sentences and try not to make them feel embarrassed if they lose the thread of what they’re saying. Allow them time to get their thoughts together and communicate at their pace.

Embrace the silence and physical affection

Silence is not a bad thing. Enjoy the silence. Allow your loved one to feel comfortable. An affectionate hug or holding their hand can help them feel emotionally supported and build on the connection.

Share stories but be realistic about memory loss

Recollecting stories, listening and reminiscing can be reassuring and validating for your loved one. Take time to recollect fond memories; this can be fun for all involved. However, don’t be discouraged by their memory loss. Do not be offended if your friend or family member can’t remember certain events, even recent ones. It is just as hard on the person living with dementia. Be patient and take it slowly.

What’s important when visiting someone living with dementia is the time you spend together. It’s important to know that quality time is making a difference to them. The emotional support you provide helps them feel connected while reducing the likelihood of depression.

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