If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you know how important it is to maintain an enriched life. You may discover there are challenges, however, when trying to prioritize engaging with others. The individual, friends and other family members may all need guidance and reassurance in how to best share time together.
The importance of social interaction when living with dementia
Encouraging family members and friends to visit can make such a positive impact, especially when considering that those living with dementia often feel excluded from others — and the world around them. Research has found that socially interacting can significantly improve their quality of life, as well as reduce their agitation levels.
While it’s essential to help loved ones understand they are still a vital part of the family and their circle of friends, they may also need gentle encouragement to participate. It’s not uncommon for them to begin withdrawing from social interaction out of fear of what they may say or do.
Overcoming hesitancy: visiting with a loved one living with dementia
Family members and even close friends may begin to avoid seeing their loved ones who are living with dementia. But it’s not from lack of caring. People often note they are uncomfortable interacting and are afraid they may say the wrong thing or make the situation worse.
However, if you can help prepare and reassure them with tips and information ahead of time, everyone can begin to feel more confident, which can lead to enjoyable and hopefully future visits.
Tips to promote positive visits with those living with dementia
- Consider your loved one’s needs and preferences first
Make sure to include your loved ones in any plans, including who is coming for a visit. Whenever possible, ask what they might like to do. Consider the time of day that might be best and enjoyable activities you could suggest.
- Create a memory box together
Gather meaningful objects from the person’s past as well as materials needed to create a memory box that can be returned to even after the visit. Make sure the box or container is easy to open and suggest the visitor and your loved one share stories or any recollections about the objects.
- Read together from a favorite book
Depending on where your loved one is at in the dementia journey, being able to read or keep track of an ongoing story may be too difficult. But if they once loved books, a great activity is to recommend reading short stories from favorite books or authors.
- Consider the power of the human touch
If your loved one struggles to communicate verbally, and is comfortable with another’s touch, suggest offering a hand or foot massage, a back rub or even simply holding hands. These gestures all convey feelings of compassion, love and belonging.
- Share the joy of music
Music is a powerful memory trigger for many individuals who are living with dementia. Share with the visitor the type or era of music your loved one most enjoyed and arrange to have it played. Encourage singing along or just recalling memories from a certain time.
- Spend time in nature
If the weather is agreeable and your loved one enjoyed the outdoors, suggest taking a walk, working together in a garden or visiting a park to people and dog watch. Sitting quietly in the sun and fresh air can be a wonderful activity to help appreciate the simple joys of the moment.
- Browse through time
Sharing old photo albums can spark memories and help your loved one reminisce about the past. Questions can be asked but make sure the visitor knows not to make the person feel uncomfortable if they can’t remember a specific name or place.
- Choose favorite activities
Share with the visitor activities your loved one enjoyed before being diagnosed with dementia and which ones might be appropriate considering current abilities and preferences. Puzzles with large pieces, playing a board game, sorting through different objects or even dancing can be stimulating for the brain – and fun.
- Bring in scents to spark memories
The sense of smell is another powerful trigger for those living with dementia. Choose from a wide variety, including scents from holidays, baking, herbs, spices, perfumes, lotions or other possibilities from their childhood or past.
- Go for a drive
Would your loved one enjoy seeing the change of seasons or a drive through the old neighborhoods? Don’t overlook taking a digital tour as well. Today you can access childhood homes, schools, the new art museum or virtually drive by the baseball field where many summer days were spent.
Life at Eskaton Communities
The word Eskaton means “dawn of a new day.” In our communities, we see each day as an opportunity to enhance the lives of our residents. We’ve been serving the Sacramento region and Northern California for over 50 years.
The Eskaton Difference starts with our life-enriching programs and collaborative partnerships. With a national reputation for innovation, we focus on creating communities that provide our residents everything they need for purposeful living.
We invite you to visit one of our award-winning communities to discover some of the benefits we offer, such as:
- Private residences
- Delicious and nutritious meals
- Social opportunities to meet and make new friends
- Creative activities and therapies
- Fitness centers and exercise classes
- Housekeeping services
- Transportation services
- 24-hour staffing
- Free Wi-Fi
- And much, much more!
If you’re considering whether senior living could be the best choice for you or a loved one, we’re here to answer any questions that you may have. We also invite you to download our complimentary information, Just the Facts: Your Guide to Assisted Living. To schedule a personalized tour, call us at 1-866-ESKATON (1-866-375-2866) or visit eskaton.org.