10 Tips for Visiting a Loved One in Memory Care

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You know moving your loved one into a memory care community was the right move. It was good for your loved one, it’s good for your family. You trust the community to care for your loved one well and you feel comfortable about your decision. So, why do you still feel uncomfortable when you visit? The truth is, it can be hard to know what to expect from your loved one in a new environment and the progression of dementia can make things unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable.

Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your visits with a loved one in memory care.

10 Tips for Visiting a Loved One in Memory Care

1. Identify yourself

No matter where your loved one is in the progression of the disease, always introduce yourself first. Dementia can cause confusion and disorientation so be in direct eyesight of your loved one, at his or her level, and with a smile, introduce yourself and your relationship to him or her. This will become increasingly important as the disease progresses and facial recognition can become difficult for your loved one.

2. Bring favorite and familiar objects

Bringing objects that you know your loved one will appreciate can help alleviate the tension. This could include a favorite and familiar album or CD, a favorite book, even a child or a pet if the community allows. This can give your loved one a sense of belonging and home in a new environment.

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3. Don’t argue – divert

This is true in every step of the disease. It will do no good to argue with someone who has dementia. Enter his or her reality and understand that it’s okay to tell little white lies here. Divert the conversation but do not enter into an argument if your loved one is saying things that are not true. Remember, it’s true to them.

4. Think through meaningful activities to do together

Come prepared with things to do. Today’s memory care communities often have robust programming so time your visit where the two of you can attend an art class, or go to a poetry reading, or even spend some time tending to the community garden. If your timing does not work for a community event, you could bring a book to read together, watch a favorite movie, or sing favorite songs.

5. Be okay with the quiet

Some days you and your loved one may not have much to say. That’s okay! This can be a difficult time for your family. It’s okay to sit in the silence and just be together.

6. Be familiar with the rules of the community

You chose this community for a reason and chances are, you and your loved one feel comfortable here. Be open with the staff and ask them about their rules and policies. They will be able to tell you how to best navigate your time together and ensure a seamless transition into community life.

7. Change the scenery, if possible

If possible, go for a walk around the courtyard or community. Get fresh air and enjoy being together without the background of a new environment.

8. Don’t overstay your welcome

As with most things, short and sweet is better than long and empty. Know that your loved one is getting used to a new lifestyle, a new environment, new people, sometimes even new medication. All of these changes can make them more tired than normal. Spend your quality time together but don’t feel like you need to stay longer than appropriate. Visits between a half-hour and an hour are usually a good timeframe.

9. Consider the timing of your visit

Take a look at the community calendar and note when certain therapies are being provided, when your loved one can rest, and determine the best time for you to visit. Ask the staff if they have an opinion on the best times to visit. Generally speaking, morning visits are usually better than evenings.

10. Keep visiting even as the disease progresses

Even as the disease progresses and your loved one may be unable to recognize and identify you, studies show that emotional memory is retained. This means that although your loved one may not know you, they recognize their emotion and can remember that emotion, even after forgetting the event that caused that emotion.

What tips do you have for visiting a loved one in memory care? Share your personal experiences with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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About the author

Alissa has been working in marketing and the senior living industry for over 8 years. With a B.S. in advertising from the University of Illinois, Alissa has worked all over the world as a freelance communications strategist and writer. Published in Forbes, Senior Finance Advisor, Alzheimers.net and on other leading senior care blogs, she leverages her working knowledge of the senior care industry with leading research and best practices to create engaging content benefitting seniors and their caregivers. In her free time, Alissa loves to travel, read, cook, and spend time with her family.