Research tells us that nearly every American family today has been touched by dementia, including its most common form of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dementia cuts across every social and economic demographic, and currently impacts millions of seniors and their loved ones. It is characterized by severe memory loss, diminished communication skills, and poor judgment. Each of these issues can make family relationships more complicated and challenging. We know that this can cause additional frustration at all times throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season and winter.
No matter what memory issues your loved one is facing, there is no reason to avoid visiting an elder loved one with dementia at his or her nursing home. Know that seniors with dementia can still enjoy visits from family and friends in the moment, regardless of whether they will remember it later. The point is that spending quality time with them contributes to their well-being and offers you the opportunity to experience time with loved ones.
There are considerations, however, that you need to think about before visiting a loved one in a skilled facility. What are the hours for visiting? Are there restrictions to what you can bring? Are there triggers that can upset your loved one? Let us share several tips to consider when visiting.
First, plan ahead and coordinate with nursing home staff to not interrupt the elder person’s routine or activity time. Bring them thoughtful items, like flowers, pictures, familiar objects and even favorite foods, if the dietitian agrees. Introduce yourself to your loved one’s caregivers and announce your presence, “Hi Mom, it’s me, Mary.” If your loved one seems agitated, speak in soothing tones about the weather or other mundane topics to divert his or her attention and create rapport.
It can be helpful to pre-plan a list of things to talk about, as it is likely the elder adult won’t have much information to share. Introducing light activities can also keep the visit flowing smoothly. Consider taking them on a walk around the nursing home facility or sit on a bench in a garden, if the facility has one and it is safe for your loved one to go outside. Remember, some dementia patients are prone to wandering and they may need to remain in a safe environment.
Photo albums or Facebook pictures can stimulate conversation and spark memories. A visit is also an opportunity to gauge the elder loved one’s health and access potential warning signs of elder abuse. Unfortunately, seniors with dementia are particularly vulnerable to physical abuse, neglect, and theft because they are unlikely to remember or be believed. =
There is never a wrong time to visit loved ones in a skilled nursing facility. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers.
Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our experienced long-term care team on any of the elder law questions you have. We are here for you to help you navigate this process.