FlowersLearning How To Interact With Your Loved One In The New Environment
By Carol Simpson

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When you begin visiting your loved one in his or her new home, you will learn how best to insert yourself into their ongoing life.

When you arrive, your relative may be involved in a group activity or may be in an unreceptive mood. You may want all his or her attention, but it may not be appropriate or possible. Each visit may be different.

Flexibility is the key to making your visits go well. If you arrive with a set agenda or rigid expectation, you may feel disappointed or rejected. Go with the flow.

Some days you may simply observe, and sometimes you may want to join in to their group activities. Other times you can spend time together --- sharing a meal, taking a walk or just talking together.

Try not to react negatively if your relative doesn't recognize you or understand that you are a special person in their life. Even in the most advanced stages of the disease, the person responds to the feelings of affection and love.

He or she may not identify the source, but being in the presence of someone who cares improves the quality of life. "When I would visit my husband," recalls a woman whose spouse no longer recognized her, "he would often spend time holding hands with another resident. But I knew he thought he was with me. I felt the love we had shared, even if he couldn't express it directly to me."

How To Handle An Upsetting Visit

Sometimes visiting your loved one will fill you with sorrow or bittersweet emotions. He or she may be agitated or seem lost in thought. . . totally unreachable. You long for connection, but it is elusive. As you return home, you may feel the sharp sting of cruelty. Nothing can prevent these moments.

Watching your loved one drift away is painful, sometimes unbearably so. But for your health and for the well-being of your loved one you may want to find ways of coping with these emotions.

* Most important, don't deny them.

* Don't bottle them up. Talk with friends, families, social workers. Go to a support group. Make yourself open to the help and insight of others.

* Remember the good times. You have good memories. Your life together is not confined to the present difficulties but blossomed over the years. And those years created wonderful, shared experiences that are still part of your life --- and of your loved one's. They should not be erased because your loved one has Alzheimer's.

* Find solace and humor in who the person is today. Focus on the strengths and positives of the situation instead of the deterioration.

* Develop new creative ways to enjoy your time together. Try looking at old pictures, reminiscing, watching TV, sitting quietly, taking a walk etc.

* Go visit again soon. Don't deny yourself a pleasurable visit because of a painful one. Each visit is different --- both you and your loved one will be in a different mood the next time you see one another.

(c) copyright 1995


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