Connecting with Someone Who Has Dementia
It may be difficult to visit a loved one that is living with dementia. Many people are unsure about what to do or say during visits. Finding a way to spend quality time with a person that may not remember you, may not be able to carry out a task or may not understand what you are saying can be a real challenge.
In her book, Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer’s Disease, Jolene Brackey suggests thinking of the visit as a time to create a treasured moment of joy, even though they may not remember what you said or even remember the visit. The point is to be very much in the moment with your loved one.
How to create these ‘moments of joy’? Think of activities that have the most meaning for your loved one. Granted, they may not be able run power tools to make a table anymore, but they may be able to enjoy sanding wooden blocks. Adapting favorite activities can trigger many happy memories.
Music is also a very powerful tool. Hearing a favorite song from a happy period in a person’s life can be uplifting. It is always amazing to witness how long people can remember lyrics to a favorite song even though they may not be able to communicate much else. At Friendship Haven, we have iPods available that can be programmed with your loved one’s favorite playlist and can be utilized at any time.
Don’t forget about touch. As all of us age, we are touched less, but we still need the physical contact. People living with dementia are no different. Many enjoy hand massages or having their hair brushed. Women enjoy having makeup applied, while men like a good old-fashioned shave. And who doesn’t like having their back scratched?
If your loved one finds comfort in spirituality, reading from the Bible or sharing prayers can be important.
Make sure your loved one has pictures of family and friends on display or in photo albums to look at. These can trigger so many memories, and you may hear stories that they have never shared before! Pictures are also useful for staff to connect with your loved one.
Most people need to feel like they have a purpose. Ask your loved one for their advice, or ask for assistance with even simple tasks.
Don’t forget to laugh! We are never too old to enjoy a good joke or a funny TV show! Going outdoors and throwing water balloons or flying kites are wonderful ways to bring out the child in all of us. Children and pets are also sure to bring a smile and are enjoyed by everyone in the neighborhood.
Remember to be flexible when you visit. What works one time may not work the next. Always stay in the moment and be ready to adjust your plans. Sometimes it can be best to just be quiet and hold hands.
Contributed By: Karen Ebelsheiser (Simpson Health Center Activity Director)