FlowersHow to Make Visiting Someone in a Nursing Home...Easier
By Susan Foster, LSW

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Visiting with a person who has Alzheimer's disease and lives in a nursing home is not always an easy experience. You will probably have many questions before visiting. What should we talk about? What should I do when she calls me the wrong name? What should I do when he does not respond at all? How do I visit with her in front of all those other people? What should I do when other residents seek my attention?

No matter what happens during a visit, there is one important goal to keep in mind: The purpose of the visit is not to share information but to share a moment together and have a pleasant experience. To accomplish this goal, there are several tips to keep in mind:

Let the person with Alzheimer's disease set the pace.

Your loved one may not be ready for a visit the moment you arrive. Does he or she seem agitated? Does she walk away in the middle of the conversation? If the answer is yes, it might not be a good time for a visit. Or it might require that you spend the visit together just walking quietly.

Bring in supplies for the visit.

It is often difficult to converse with a person who is confused. Having a bag of supplies ready when you visit can help to make the time more pleasant for you and your loved one. Bring along old family pictures, greeting cards, stuffed animals to hold or lotion to apply. It's all right to have a visit with little or no conversation; just doing something together can also be enjoyable.

Realize that the feelings shared are more important than the content of your conversation.

When talking with someone who has Alzheimer's disease, the content of the conversation is much less important than how a loved one feels about the conversation. You don't have to correct your loved one if he or she says something you know is incorrect. If he or she confuses the year or calls you by the wrong name, it's not important. Ask questions of a general nature rather than details that he is likely to have forgotten already.

Talk about past events.

As Alzheimer's disease progresses, people with the disease are able to remember less and less of the events that happened in recent years. Most of what they remember happened many years ago. When you are visiting, it is often better to draw upon these past events than to talk about what happened over the weekend or that morning. Favorite stories can be told over and over.

Visit during scheduled activities.

Visiting while activities are taking place in the facility can help make the time more pleasant. Check with the staff to see which activities would be most suitable for your involvement.

Expect to have other residents join you.

When you are visiting a nursing home, other residents will often try to join in your conversation. After several visits, having extra people around will probably seem normal, and it may help the visit to go more smoothly. If you would like to have more privacy, ask staff for a room where you can meet with your loved one without any distractions.

Limit the number of family members.

It is not always a good idea to have several family members visit at one time since it may add to your loved one's confusion. In addition, the normal playfulness of smaller children might be too much for your loved one.

Bring in favorite foods to share. Your loved one might appreciate a special main dish or dessert. The food might serve as a topic for discussion. If possible, prepare a treat with your loved one to make it even more meaningful.

Published by the RADC 1998


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