Many family members express their own frustrations about visiting their loved ones in assisted living, who are memory impaired, due to a traumatic injury or progressive dementia. Some people even end up visiting less often than they would like because they “don’t know what to say.” As dementia progresses in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s may lose the ability to recognize their loved ones, which makes things even more difficult. At Serenity Gardens Memory Care Assisted Living, we only treat the memory impaired and we know how frustrating it can be. To help add meaning to your visits and give you a reason to visit, we have compiled this list of meaningful conversations you can have with the memory impaired.
Bring a photo album to look at together. Looking at a book helps to take the focus off of the conversation itself, and makes the discussion more of an activity. Depending on how advanced the cognitive or memory impairment is, will guide what photos to bring. In early stages, just grab one of their photo albums and let them talk about the pictures. Don’t correct them if they confuse a memory, just engage in the conversation. If the impairment has progressed, you can bring pictures you pulled from magazines of things they used to do, such as gardens or animals. This can still be an engaging activity for the nonverbal and allows you to spend quality time with your loved one.
Ask story leading questions such as “tell me about the first time you fell in love” or “what was it like growing up on a farm.” If your loved one is in advanced stages of dementia, you can answer those questions about yourself and tell them a meaningful story. Sure, they may not retain it, but storytelling is an active way to keep them engaged and meaningful time spent together.
If your loved one is still able to read alone, bring a newspaper and read the paper over coffee, you can discuss some of the topics as they come up. As the dementia progresses, you can read to your loved one — the newspaper, a romance novel, or fairy tales. Reading from a book helps to reduce the stress of keeping the conversation going.
Show and Tell
Bring items that will interest them and talk about them. Perhaps something they used to collect, a new book, a drawing from your child, or you pet (if the facility allows). Bringing something to talk about helps to spark the conversation and gives them something to talk about.
Enjoy the Silence
Not all silence needs to be filled. Although some people may feel awkward, sitting together in silence is still spending quality time together. You don’t have to be purposefully quiet, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to fill the quiet moment. Sit and listen to music with your loved one, watch a television program, or hold their hand while they nap. Your presence means more than any words will.
Watching a loved one’s memory deteriorate to the point that they do not know who you are can be very difficult. But if you are thinking that if you miss a visit, “they won’t remember anyway,” you may miss out on valuable time. At Serenity Gardens Memory Care Assisted Living, we strive to make the effects of dementia as comfortable for our residents and their families. If you need help adjusting to the changes in your loved one, don’t hesitate to ask our friendly, knowledgeable staff. Stop by and see us today!