Memory care specialists agree: those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss benefit greatly from social interaction. Visits from friends and family members who engage them in conversation help to promote cognitive functioning and emotional health, even if they don’t clearly recognize their visitor.
However, the possibility that they won’t be remembered or know what to expect often keeps visitors away. A lack of understanding of memory loss is the main cause of hesitation in potential visitors. They don’t know what to expect and often fear that their friend or loved one won’t remember who they are. This is a real possibility, and it can be an emotionally trying experience for a visitor to witness their loved one’s decline.
But, it’s worth it for the person with memory loss for visitors to get over their concern and make the effort. Visits can be healthy for both parties and extremely successful with the proper understanding of how memory loss affects your loved one. All it takes is the willingness to learn a new way to communicate.”
How to Interact with a Loved One with Memory Loss
If you have a friend or loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, learning about their condition is a great first step toward spending time with them successfully. It’s important to be prepared for the possible ways in which memory loss may change your loved one over time. More than just loss of memory, dementia can make it difficult for a person to think of correct words to use, follow along in a conversation or react appropriately. Depending on how advanced their disease is, you are likely to witness many changes as their cognitive abilities decline over time.
Learning how to cope with these changes takes practice, but developing some new communication techniques and coordinating with their caregiver can put you on the path toward pleasant visits.
Tips for Making Visits Successful
Experts in memory care, as well as long-time caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, have much to share in terms of communicating with a loved one with memory loss. Marie Marley, award-winning author of Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy, shares 25 tips for visiting a person with Alzheimer’s disease. The following advice can help you improve the quality of your visits:
- When planning for a visit, make sure to coordinate with the person’s caregiver. They’ll know at what time of day their loved one is at his or her best for company.
- If the person doesn’t remember your name, don’t take it personally. Introduce yourself in a friendly way, such as, “Hi, Tom. I’m Lou. We used to work together.”
- Use their name frequently when you talk to them. Not only will this help keep their focus, but people also respond positively when they hear their name.
- Remember to make eye contact when you’re speaking to them. Approach them from the front and try to sit face-to-face so you’re fully visible.
- Speak slowly and clearly. They may have a hard time comprehending everything you say if you talk too quickly.
- Ask one question at a time, and give them plenty of time to answer before saying something else.
- Similarly, speak in short sentences with only one direct idea, so it’s easier for them to focus on one thing at a time.
- It’s common for people with memory loss to repeat questions or stories. If this happens, respond as if it were the first time you’ve heard it.
- Don’t argue or correct your loved one if they make a mistake. This may only confuse them more. Instead, understand that you’re visiting them in their reality, and do your best to help them enjoy the time you spend together.
- Don’t talk down to them or speak to them as if they were a child. Preserve their dignity by speaking to them like an adult.
- Talk about old times shared together more than recent events. People with dementia are more likely to forget recently learned information.
- Try not to bring up topics that might upset them. If they ask about a person who may have passed away, refrain from telling them so.
- Sometimes, it’s alright if you don’t do much talking. Your loved one can still enjoy your company if your simply watch a show together or read to them. The important thing is that you’re letting them know they’re not forgotten.
Helping You to Help Them
At Tuscan Gardens, we’re dedicated to helping seniors with memory loss, as well as their families and friends. If you could use more information about memory loss and the symptoms your loved one might be experiencing, our experienced team is happy to help you learn more.
For those who are living with the effects of memory loss, visits from friends and relatives can be truly meaningful. A visit with you might have the power to boost their mood and make their whole day!