Visiting friends and family with a person living with dementia

Visiting friends and family can be a tremendous morale boost to your loved one, and that is true of persons living with any stage of dementia. It works both ways—whether friends and family visit you or you and your loved one visit them, it can be a very good thing. In the early stages, your loved one may react completely normally or may have memory lapses that could be attributed to aging. As the disease progresses, your loved one may not recognize his/her friends or family—even the closest relations can disappear from their minds. Regardless, you will be able to tell that your loved one is interested, engaged, and happy to be among friends again.

Marilyn and Lauren talk about their loved one’s resistance to asking for help with a cane or an arm. Lauren describes her desire to cook and help with the great grandchildren. Marilyn found it helpful to find relevant tasks that were still within her mom’s ability to accomplish—even if at 94 she was unable to pick up the children. 

Here are some tips to make it a success:

Plan the trip. Decide how long a visit your loved one can comfortably sustain and let all concerned know how long the visit will be. Have a reason to end the visit at the appointed time, whether it is an appointment or an event. Visits that go on too long can exhaust your loved one’s patience (and yours).

During the visit, reduce background noise—turn off the television or other sounds that can be distracting. Let friends and family know what to expect. You may want to guide them in communicating clearly with a person living with dementia. Explain to children to speak clearly and avoid arguing. Keep a journal of visits so you and your loved one can go back to talk about the visit—who was present, what they said, how they looked. You both can get much joy out of reliving your visits.