A diagnosis of dementia may also mean a diagnosis for loneliness. Though remaining social remains critically important for people with dementia, many different 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 much more
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, the perfect time to figure out how to overcome any hurdles to staying connected to a family member with dementia.
How Can I Ease My Discomfort Over Visiting a Family Member With Dementia?
First, know you are not alone in feeling uncomfortable or awkward. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can cause some unpredictable and stressful behaviors. The person you know has changed. You might wonder if they will even recognize you, and if not, should you even visit?
The reality is that whether or not the person is confused about who you are, the chance to spend some time with a friendly companion is invaluable. Plan to leave your own feelings regarding the visit at the door when you arrive. Focus your attention entirely 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 individual for your visit, keep these to-dos and not-to-dos in mind:
- Make eye contact.
- Ask questions that include an either-or option: “I brought some treats. Do you want a cookie or a muffin?”
- Introduce yourself in brief, to-the-point sentences: “Hi, Aunt Jill. I’m Sally, your niece. It is so good to see you.”
- Expect that the person may not answer a question or respond to a statement. Allow intervals of silence, knowing just being together is beneficial.
- Use a calm, slow style of speaking.
- Relax your body posture.
- Step into any alternate realities the person may be experiencing. For example, they may believe they are a teacher getting ready for an upcoming class. Continue the conversation based on their lead and direction.
- Bring an activity to share: pictures to look at together, some memorabilia to make a connection to the past, music to listen to, an easy craft or hobby, etc.
- Sit down 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 recognize your body language and tone of voice and react accordingly.
- Talk to them as if they were a child.
- Ask if they remember an individual or event, which might trigger confusion or frustration.
- Argue with or correct the individual.
- Take anything personally or allow it to hurt your feelings. Those with dementia may yell, curse, or say things they don’t mean. This is a direct effect of the disease, and not coming from the person.
- Talk about them with other people in the room, as if they aren’t there.
How Else Can I Help Someone With Dementia Have a Better Quality of Life?
One of the best ways to provide support is by partnering with Inspired Home Care. Our dementia care specialists are fully trained and experienced in all aspects of Alzheimer’s care. We serve as skilled companions to offer regular social connections with a loved one with dementia. We can also provide you with a variety of resources, educational materials, and strategies to help make life the very best it can be for someone you love.