By Nancy Swayze, MD
Chief of Skilled Nursing Facilities
Many people feel anxious about visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. It can be a difficult experience at times due to the memory and behavioral problems that often affect Alzheimer’s patients. Here’s some tips to help you cope and make your visit more enjoyable:
- Position yourself to be at your loved one’s level. Always make eye contact even if you have to kneel or sit. It’s important that they see you when you speak to them. Try not to stand or hover over a loved one, as it can be intimidating.
- Speak in short sentences. Using short, direct sentences works best, as those with Alzheimer’s usually can only focus on one idea at a time.
- Don’t say “Remember…” Often a person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to remember everything that you do. This can cause anger and embarrassment. Follow their lead on what they choose to talk about. It’s often from many years ago.
- Only ask one question at a time. Always let your loved one first answer a question before you ask another one. Also, try to avoid complicated questions, as it may frustrate them. Start with simple questions with one-two word answers. Try to find topics that don’t have a “right answer.”
- Speak slowly, but don’t talk down to them. Speaking slowly allows a person with Alzheimer’s to catch up to your words. Speaking at one-half your normal speed is a good idea, but avoid talking to them as if they were a child. Make sure the hearing aids are in and working. Sometimes a voice amplifier can help with communication.
- Do something when you visit. Timing your visit to a group activity at a care center or nursing home is a good idea (such as a musical performance or special meal). You can also bring old photos or listen to music that you know they enjoy.
- Don’t get frustrated when they keep repeating the same story or asking the same question. try to respond as though it is the first time you have heard the question or the story. Be patient when your loved one can’t remember what they have just said. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, it’s okay to take a break, re-settle yourself and come back to the visit.
- If your loved one gets agitated, change the subject or stop what you are doing. Never try to argue with a person with Alzheimer’s, as it will just cause the both of you to get frustrated and angry. Agreeing and redirecting are valuable skills to de-escalate agitation and tend to work faster than medications (and less side effects).
- Do not correct your loved one if they are mistaken about something. This can cause frustration and embarrassment.
- Keep visiting even if your loved one doesn’t know who you are. Even if they do not recognize you, they may really enjoy the fact that you are spending time with them.
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. For more information and resources, visit https://www.alz.org
About Nancy Swayze, MD – Chief of Skilled Nursing Facilities
Geriatricians are doctors who specialize in the medical care of patients over the age of 65. At Reliant Medical Group, our geriatricians work inside nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities) helping to provide care for our older patients. Geriatricians are experts at dealing with arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility issues, memory loss and other problems that can affect the elderly. They can also help seniors deal with the...View profile View posts by this doctor