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Visiting your loved one with dementia in a nursing home? 3 Tips to help you make the best of your visit

If you have ever visited someone with dementia in a nursing home, then you know it can be hard to think of things to do or talk about to keep the visit going.  The quality of the visit is much more important than the length of the visit.  Individuals with dementia may not remember what you did from visit to visit, but they will remember how you made them feel during your time together, so make the minutes count.

Here are some tips to help you have a successful visit:

  1. Keep it simple. You do not have to talk all of the visit or have a specific planned activity, just enjoy being together.  Hold hands, go for a walk, have a cup of tea, share some ice cream, smell the flowers, look at the clouds.  It’s okay just to be.  If you would like to have something to do, then bring simple activities along with you.
  2. Pack a visiting bag. If you visit the nursing home often, just leave a packed bag by the door that you can easily grab on your way out.  Fill the bag with your loved one’s favorite snack, deck of cards, photo album, interesting picture books, craft or hobby supplies, simple puzzle, favorite hand lotion, MP3 player, and book to read aloud to or with the person.
  3. Don’t quiz. No one likes to be asked things they don’t know. Instead of quizzing the person regarding the events of the day, share what you have been doing, or just converse about the activity your brought to do.  Don’t be surprised if your loved one forgets your name.  This is common and it does not mean the person doesn’t love you anymore.  I encourage families to wear a simple name tag (first name in large print) when they visit to help decrease any confusion and to enable the person with dementia to call you by name.

Although having something to do during a visit certainly helps to pass the time, remember that just sharing the time is what is important.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to entertain your loved one during every visit.  Pack some simple things to do, wear your name tag, and be thankful that you have the person in your life.

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