How to behave when visiting a relative with dementia?

You already know that in most cases, conversations with relatives who suffer from Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia do not go smoothly, and this is understandable. Sometimes they don’t even make sense, no matter how hard you try to “get into the shoes” of the person, it is very difficult to understand what he is thinking, who he is talking about or what he wants to do. It is unpleasant for both parties, especially for your relative with dementia, if you verbally or with your body language show that you have no idea what they are talking about. Then his confusion increases and can be dangerous for his condition depending on the stage of dementia in which he is.

For this reason, today we will turn your attention to a few simple tips – what to do and what not to do when visiting a relative with dementia. All advice is based on the experience of our Block Memory Care teams who communicate daily with adults with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and predispose them to feel comfortable and understood in conversations. Of course, working with them includes many other physical and mental exercises, thanks to which they are relaxed, calm and communicative, but today we will share just a few basic “rules” that in our opinion will even encourage you to visit your loved ones more often if they live in a nursing home.

What to do?

  1. Keep your body tone and language cheerful, positive and friendly.
  2. Do not speak too loudly but calmly and evenly.
  3. Look them in the eye and strive to be at eye level as you speak.
  4. Introduce yourself, even if you are sure they know you. As you know, dementia makes people think of their distant acquaintances or even deceased relatives. They call them by name, tell stories from the past, share events you may not have witnessed. So always start with a presentation. For example, “Hello, Grandma, it’s Peter, your grandson. How are you today?”
  5. Speak slowly and in short sentences. Do not confuse them too much by embarking on explanations. For example, “Hello, Grandma. I’m Peter, your grandson” or “What a good weather. It’s very sunny today, isn’t it?” or “Tell me about your day.”
  6. Give them extra time to answer questions or think, do not continue the conversation immediately and do not mix many questions.
  7. Feel comfortable in silence as well. Be prepared that they may not start a conversation right away, but your body language should show that you have absolutely no problem being quiet together.
  8. Follow them during the conversation, follow their pace, because relatives often “force” the conversation, want to change the subject, insist on answering them in one way or another and unconsciously even raise their voice. This is unnecessary and will not lead to success. Give them time to continue.
  9. Agree with their feelings. If they feel sadness, fear, or anger, show that you understand them and that what they are feeling is completely justified.
  10. Be part of “their reality”. Continue the conversation even if they are talking about events that are not true or are from their past. Pretend to understand, listen, and share their opinions.
  11. Share and discuss memories from the past. As we told you above, they are more likely to remember events from the distant past of which you were not a part, but you are probably reminding them of a person with whom they shared their daily lives at the time.
  12. Prepare activity when you visit your loved one with dementia. For example, a book to read to him/her, music to listen to together or a photo album to view.
  13. Hug your loved ones or massage their arms and shoulders if they allow you and they like it. This is usually reassuring and predisposing, but not for everyone.

What NOT to do?

  1. Don’t ask “Do you remember?” This can cause anger or embarrassment.
  2. Don’t argue. If they say something that is not right, ignore it in the conversation, do not go into dept and do not attach importance to it.
  3. Don’t point out the mistakes they make. It makes them feel bad and does not help during the conversation.
  4. Do not take personally everything they say – sometimes it can be unpleasant, may contain attacks but always remember that the disease confuses them, stimulates emotions such as frustration, anger or fear.
  5. Don’t talk about them with other people as if they are not in the room. It is important not to ignore their presence.
  6. Do not talk condescendingly with them. Remember that they are not children, but elderly people who deserve the necessary respect.

If you have not experienced dementia before, it will probably be difficult for you to control and “choose” your emotions and reactions. This will happen over time, but it is important to remember that their brain is confused. It needs guidance, encouragement and support. Therefore, it is not enough just to come to terms with the disease but to help the person maintain dignity and confidence that he can cope, can think and use his body accordingly (in various forms of dementia, people also suffer physically, often immobilized). This is the goal of centers such as Blocks Adult Care and Block Memory Care. They are not just designed to accommodate the elderly in family-type homes but to follow proven models to improve mental performance and cognitive skills to help residents and patients live their days with dignity, in a friendly and social environment.

Leave a reply