3 Tips For Visiting An Alzheimer's Patient In Memory Care
Alzheimer's disease is a condition that not only affects the patient, it also profoundly affects the family and loved ones of the patient. Visiting someone that you love in a memory care unit can be upsetting. They may not recognize you, or they may confuse you with someone else. They may not know what year it is or where exactly they are. Yet, it's still important for you and for them to maintain your connection with them by visiting frequently. Take a look at some tips that can help you have a more pleasant visit with your loved one.
Time Your Visits Carefully
Choosing the right time of day to visit can make a big difference in how your visit goes. Many Alzheimer's patients have specific times of day when they're more or less lucid, or in better or worse spirits. A common phenomena among Alzheimer's patients is sundowning – confusion and behavioral problems that tend to correspond with the end of the day and that last into the night. This is when your loved one is most likely to be agitated, aggressive, restless, and disoriented. If your loved one suffers from sundowning symptoms, you're better off visiting earlier in the day.
Keep in mind that while sundowning most commonly occurs in the evening, not all patients who experience these symptoms experience them at the same time. Some patients may be more confused or agitated early in the morning, for example. If you're unsure, talk to the nurses in your loved one's memory care unit. They pay attention to the patterns and routines of their patients, and they'll be able to tell you what time of day your loved one is likely to be in good spirits.
Visit Their Reality
If your loved one is confused about who or where you are when you visit, don't correct them. It's natural that you might want to remind them who they're talking to or what's going on, but the fact is, doing so is likely to just upset them.
Remember that when an Alzheimer's patient thinks that you're someone else, they're not being intentionally hurtful, and they're not experiencing the normal forgetfulness that everyone experiences now and then. They're living in their own version of reality, and it's different than yours. And unfortunately, they can't return to your reality at will. However, you can join them in their reality. For example, if your grandmother calls you by her sister's name instead of yours, just go with it. At a minimum, you'll spare them some confusion. On the bright side, you may learn things you never knew about your grandmother's youth.
Bring Something to Talk About
You may be wondering how to talk to someone who may think they're in a different time or place. One way to do this is to bring something with you to talk about. Do you have roses or tomatoes growing in your backyard? Either way, bring some with you. Your loved one will get a chance to smell the roses or taste the tomatoes, and you can talk about gardening. You can also bring a deck of cards and play a game, or bring a craft project and work on it together. If the memory care unit allows it, you could even bring a pet. You'll be providing your loved one with a sensory experience, which is good therapy for Alzheimer's patients and can help them connect.
Also, don't hesitate to bring in family pictures. Your loved one will enjoy looking at them even if they don't immediately recognize them. However, looking at the familiar faces may just spark a memory.
Visiting a loved one who has Alzheimer's can be emotional, but you'll be glad later for any time that you spent with them. These tips can help you get the most out of those visits.