A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can also mean a diagnosis for loneliness. Though remaining social continues to be vitally important for people with dementia, a variety of factors can cause an increase in isolation, such as:
- The need to discontinue driving
- Discomfort on the part of friends and family who are unsure what to say (or not to say)
- Symptoms of the disease that make it challenging to communicate effectively
- And more
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, a good time for friends and family of people with dementia to learn how to overcome any hurdles to staying connected to a loved one with dementia.
How Can I Alleviate My Discomfort Over Visiting Someone With Dementia?
First, know you’re not alone in feeling awkward or uncomfortable. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can trigger some unpredictable and stressful behaviors. The person you know has changed. You might wonder if they will even recognize who you are, and if not, is it even worth visiting?
The reality is that regardless of whether the individual knows who you are, the opportunity to spend time with a friendly companion is important. Plan to leave your personal feelings regarding the visit at the door when you arrive. Concentrate solely on how you can brighten up life for the person you love by putting on a positive, nonjudgmental, and caring attitude.
When you approach the person for the visit, keep these to-dos and not-to-dos in your mind:
- Relax your body posture.
- Use a calm, slow manner of speaking.
- Ask questions that include an either-or option: “I brought some treats. Do you want a cookie or a muffin?”
- Sit down if the person is seated to make sure you remain at eye level.
- Bring an activity to share: photos to look at together, some memorabilia to make a connection with the past, music to listen to, a simple craft or hobby, etc.
- Introduce yourself in brief, to-the-point sentences: “Hi, Aunt Jill. I am Sally, your niece. It’s so good to see you.”
- Step into the person’s alternate reality with them. For instance, they may believe they are a teacher getting ready for an upcoming class. Continue the conversation based on their lead and direction.
- Make eye contact.
- Expect that the person might not answer a question or react to a statement. Allow moments of silence, knowing that just being there is beneficial.
Try not to…
- Talk about them with other people in the room, as though they aren’t there.
- Argue with or correct the person.
- Talk to them as though they were a child.
- Ask if they remember an individual or event, which can trigger confusion or frustration.
- Show any frustration, anger, fear, or other negative emotions. The person will pick up on your body language and tone of voice and react accordingly.
- Take anything personally or allow it to hurt your feelings. Individuals with Alzheimer’s may curse, yell, or say things they do not mean. This is a direct effect of the disease, and not coming from the individual.
How Else Can I Help Someone With Dementia Have a Better Quality of Life?
One of the most effective ways to assist is by partnering with Hearts at Home In-Home Care. Our dementia care specialists are fully trained and experienced in all aspects of Alzheimer’s care. We serve as skilled companions to allow for regular social connections with a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We can also offer a variety of resources, educational materials, and strategies to help make life the very best it can be for someone you love.