A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s may also mean a diagnosis for loneliness. Though socialization continues to be very necessary for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, various factors lead to an increase in isolation, including:
- Discomfort on the part of friends and family who are unsure what to say (or not to say)
- The need to discontinue driving
- Effects of the disease that make it challenging to communicate effectively
- And more
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, the perfect time to learn how to overcome any obstacles to visiting a person with dementia.
How Can I Ease 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 may cause some unpredictable and challenging behaviors. Your loved one has changed. You might wonder if they will even recognize who you are, and if not, is it even worth visiting?
The truth is that even when the person is confused about who you are, the chance to spend some time with a friendly companion is priceless. Plan to leave your personal feelings regarding the visit at the door when you arrive. Focus entirely on how you can brighten up life for the person you love by putting on a nonjudgmental, caring, and positive attitude.
When visiting a person with dementia, keep these to-dos and not-to-dos in mind:
- Relax your body posture.
- Make eye contact.
- Ask questions that include an either-or option: “I brought some treats. Would you like a cookie or a muffin?”
- Introduce yourself in brief, to-the-point sentences: “Hi, Aunt Jill. I’m Sally, your niece. It’s so good to see you.”
- Use a calm, slow manner of speaking.
- Expect that the person may not answer a question or react to a statement. Allow moments of silence, knowing that just being there is beneficial.
- Sit down if the person is seated to make sure you remain at eye level.
- Bring an activity to share: photos to look at together, some memorabilia to make a connection with the past, music to listen to, an easy craft or hobby, etc.
- In the event that the person is experiencing a different reality, step into the role along with them. For instance, they might believe they are a school teacher preparing for an upcoming class. Continue the conversation based on their lead and direction.
Try not to…
- Speak to them as though they were a child.
- Show any frustration, anger, fear, or other negative emotions. The individual will pick up on your body language and tone of voice and respond accordingly.
- Ask if they remember an individual or event, which might trigger frustration and confusion.
- Correct or argue with the individual.
- Talk about them with others in the room, as if they aren’t there.
- Take anything personally or allow it to hurt your feelings. People who have Alzheimer’s may yell, curse, or say things they don’t mean. This is an effect of the disease, and not coming from your loved one.
How Else Can I Help Someone With Alzheimer’s Have a Better Quality of Life?
One of the best ways to provide support is by partnering with Anthem Home Care. Our dementia care specialists are fully trained and experienced in all aspects of Alzheimer’s disease care. We serve as skilled companions to provide regular social connections with a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We can also share a number of resources, educational materials, and ideas to help make life the best it can be for someone you love.