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January 27, 2023

Chestnut Hill Senior Living Discusses How to Have Meaningful Visits With Someone Living With Dementia

Category: Dementia Resources

Author: Carmen Johnson, Memory Care Director

Dementia is an umbrella term for loss of memory and other thinking abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, at least two parts of the brain are dying. Dementia is progressive, chronic, and terminal, which creates many challenges.  Relationships continue to be vital to families, regardless of a dementia diagnosis. At Chestnut Hill Senior Living we have some ideas and suggestions to help you have successful visits with your loved ones.

Family members and friends impact how visits with their loved ones will go. Most often, the person living with dementia will mirror the energy of the person they are spending time with. If family members and friends appear upset, angry, or frustrated, loved ones will sense the negative energy and behave accordingly. Visitors should come with a loving, patient, and positive attitude. Avoid talking about subjects that could become contentious, such as finances and death. It is also a good idea to avoid talking about stressful subjects such as natural disasters and even political news stories. Try to focus on topics that bring joy and happiness to loved ones.

To make a visit pleasant for someone with dementia, avoid developing preconceived notions about what will happen during the visit. Furthermore, family and friends should pay close attention to their loved one’s mood. Individuals with dementia often lose their ability to speak effectively and therefore may not be able to communicate when they are hungry, sleepy, or need to use the restroom. The inability to communicate those basic needs can cause irritation and mood changes. When those mood changes occur, it is helpful to find the source and eliminate the causing factors. This may involve taking loved ones on a bathroom break, fixing a snack, or encouraging loved ones to take a short nap. It is also necessary to allow loved ones to live in the moment. Therefore, joining the reality of the person with dementia is critically important. During visits, resist the urge to correct or disagree with loved ones. If loved ones believe they are visiting with a co-worker from a job held thirty years ago, hold a conversation based on what they believe they are experiencing now. In addition, family members and friends can make visits more enjoyable by offering to view a picture book, completing a puzzle, listening to music, or playing a card or board game with their loved ones.

There are better times to visit someone with dementia. Loved ones with dementia often suffer from Sundowners Syndrome. The term “sundowning” refers to a state of confusion, occurring with people who have dementia, in the late afternoon and often spans into the night. Sundowning can cause a variety of behaviors, such as aggression, confusion, ignoring directions, anxiety, pacing, and wandering. It may be best not to visit during the late afternoon hours when sundowning is most common, or right before dinner.

When it is time to end a visit with someone with dementia, it is best not to say good-bye. Those words for many loved ones conjure up feelings of sadness. Instead, use relatable words such as, “I have to go back to work,” or “I am leaving to go to the restroom.” Enlist the help of caregivers who can take over once the visit ends. Overall, ending your visit should be short and simple.

We hope this information has given you some fresh tips and ideas for visiting someone living with dementia. Quality connections are essential for the person living with the disease, as well as yourself. If your visit still doesn’t go well, don’t beat yourself up. Every day is a new day. Be patient and you will figure out what works best. Giving your time to someone living with dementia is the best gift possible. 

Chestnut Hill Senior Living in Columbus, OH offers assisted living and memory care with a variety of services and a range of floor plan options. Newly renovated in 2021. Amenities at Chestnut Hill include restaurant dining, 24-hour bistro, concierge service, housekeeping, events and entertainment, personal care, transportation services, and more. Centrally located just east of Hamilton Road and Morse Road with quick access to Hwy 161, Gahanna, New Albany, and the greater Columbus area.

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