A diagnosis of dementia may also mean a diagnosis for loneliness. Though socialization remains critically important for those with Alzheimer’s disease, multiple factors can cause an increase in isolation, such as:
- Discomfort on the part of friends and family who are unsure what to say (or not to say)
- The need to discontinue driving
- Symptoms of the disease that make it difficult to communicate effectively
- And much more
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, the perfect time to figure out how to overcome any obstacles to spending time with a loved one with dementia.
How Do I Ease My Discomfort Over Visiting Someone With Dementia?
First, know you are not alone in feeling uncomfortable or awkward. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia may cause unpredictable and stressful behaviors. Your loved one is different now. You may wonder if they will even recognize who you are, and if not, is it even worth visiting?
The reality is that whether or not the individual is confused about who you are, the opportunity to spend some time with a friendly companion is priceless. Plan to leave your personal feelings regarding the visit at the door when you arrive. Focus your attention entirely on how you can bring joy to the person you love by putting on a caring, positive, and nonjudgmental attitude.
When you approach the individual for the visit, keep these to-dos and not-to-dos in your mind:
- Introduce yourself in brief, to-the-point sentences: “Hi, Aunt Jill. I am Sally, your niece. It is so good to see you.”
- Step into the role along with them if they are experiencing an alternate reality. For example, they may believe they are a teacher preparing for an upcoming class. Continue the conversation in line with their lead and direction.
- Use a calm, slow manner of speaking.
- Bring an activity to share: pictures to look at together, some memorabilia to make a connection with the past, music to listen to, an easy craft or hobby, etc.
- Relax your body posture.
- Expect that the individual might not answer a question or respond to a statement. Allow periods of silence, knowing your presence alone is beneficial.
- Ask questions that include an either-or choice: “I brought some treats. Would you like a cookie or a muffin?”
- Make eye contact.
- Take a seat if the person is seated so that you remain at eye level.
Try not to…
- Show any fear, frustration, anger, or other negative emotions. The person will detect your body language and tone of voice and respond accordingly.
- Speak to them as though they were a child.
- Take anything personally or let it hurt your feelings. People who have Alzheimer’s may yell, curse, or say things they don’t mean. This is a direct effect of the disease, and not coming from the person.
- Ask if they remember a person or event, which might trigger frustration and confusion.
- Correct or argue with your loved one.
- Talk about them with other individuals in the room, as though they aren’t there.
How Else Can I Help Someone With Dementia Live a Better Quality of Life?
Among the best ways to assist is by partnering with Compassionate Nursing Services. Our dementia care experts are fully trained and experienced in all aspects of dementia care. We serve as skilled companions to ensure regular social connections with someone with dementia. We can also provide a number of resources, educational materials, and strategies to help make life the best it can be for someone you love.