Having visitors can be wonderful for elderly loved ones who have dementia. A little bit of preparatory work can help to make the visit a good one for both sides.
Let Them Know What They Should Expect from a Visit
The more realistic the expectations are for your loved one’s visitors, the less likely that they will be to experience shock or other negative emotions. Having adjusted expectations can allow them to practice responding to the situation in a positive manner rather than having a negative initial response. Some of the things you might want to clue them into include some of your loved one’s challenging behaviors, what might upset her, and information about dementia in general.
Introduce the Visitor, Even if Your Loved One Knows the Person Well
When your loved one’s visitor arrives, make sure that you introduce the visitor to your loved one. You might want to include the relationship as well as the person’s name, just to be thorough. For example, you might say, “Your nephew Tom has stopped by to see you!” Another idea is to have some pictures of your loved one and her visitor handy during the visit. The photographs can sometimes connect memories of past events and make the introduction smoother.
Reduce Distractions During the Visit, if You Can
You may want to do what you can to minimize distractions during the visit, too. Turning off the television or radio is a good idea, or at least turning them down. If music calms your loved one, you may not want to do away with it altogether, but you also don’t want to make it distracting. Inviting too many people over at once can also be a big distraction for your loved one, so keep the invitations on the lower side.
Don’t Worry if the Visit Doesn’t Go the Way the Visitor Expected
Not every visit is going to go perfectly, even if you’ve done all the “right” things to make that happen. Sometimes your loved one will be having a bad day or she simply won’t feel like having a visitor. Chalk it up to that and don’t take it personally. More importantly, don’t let your loved one’s visitor take it personally, either.
Your loved one’s home care providers may be able to help you and your loved one’s visitors to understand more about what is going on, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.