How to Bring Joy, Not Anxiety, When Visiting a Person with Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia in a Nursing Home
Many people find it difficult or uncomfortable to visit a loved one in a nursing home. Be ready for more anxiety when visiting a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia for the first time.
Take that fear and anxiety away. Focus on bringing joy and love during your visit. Visiting someone with Alzheimer's or dementia should be looked at just like visiting someone with any other serious illness or injury. You are visiting to honor and support a friend who is experiencing a tough time.
In her book, "Talking to Alzheimer's," author Claudia J. Strauss suggests that you calm down before you walk in to visit. Regulate your breathing. Convey a sense of peacefulness and readiness to enjoy your friend or loved one. Let your visit unfold with no expectations or pressure.
The American Alzheimer's Association suggests these tips:
What to Do
- Sit close, away from window glare, at eye level, and touch or hold as preferred by the resident
- Look for clues to feelings through body language, eyes, or repeated phrases
- Silence can be golden--tender moments watching birds, listening to music, or just being silent together can be wonderful for you both
- Respect personal space and possessions. Ask before moving things around or sitting on the bed. Go slow ... keep pace with the person's concentration, tolerance, etc.
- Reminisce about your favorite holiday, first car, baking in the old home, the smell of a wood fire
- Use poetry, photos, video or audiotapes, artwork-find common ground
What Not To Do
- Don't rush in, walk slowly but with a purpose
- Don't hesitate or stand at the door, blocking the entrance
- Don't stare out the window, read your phone, or look bored
- Don't apologize for failing to visiting more
- Don't give advice, nag, or talk down or use baby talk
- Don't unload your own personal problems or obstacles to visiting
- Don't change the subject when the person expresses negative or sad feelings - let them talk
Your time and presence is the absolute best gift you can provide. Offer your full attention and let the visit unfold however it unfolds.
Carlson & Burnett attorney, Rich Hitz frequently addresses audiences in Nebraska and Iowa on nursing home abuse and neglect issues. Mr. Hitz has led and organized educational seminars for other lawyers in an effort to increase professional awareness and understanding of these issues.