The holidays are here, and chances are you’re planning a slew of family visits. Perhaps you’re planning a visit to a memory care community to see a memory impaired loved one. If you are, you might be anxiously anticipating the visit. Even with a beloved family member, conversation can be trying as people are often at a loss for what to say or do when visiting someone with memory loss. Practicing effective communication techniques can help minimize stress and ensure more meaningful, enjoyable visits for you and your loved one.
First, it’s important to be patient and calm. Communication often grows increasingly difficult as dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses. If your loved one struggles to find the right words, try not to interrupt them. Instead, show interest and respect by maintaining eye contact and relaxed body language.
Be sure that they can see you clearly when you talk and listen. And when you speak, do so slowly and simply, using short, familiar words and sentences so they don’t get confused or overwhelmed.
Bringing along activities can be a great way to connect and communicate with your loved one. Think about activities appropriate to their ability level. You might look through a book of beautiful photos together or go for a light stroll outside, depending on the weather and the stage of their dementia.
Reminiscing is a particularly powerful activity for connecting with a loved one with memory impairment. Listening to an old, favorite song or looking at familiar family photos can help trigger old memories.
You could also do an art project together. Art is a powerful tool for expression, particularly as verbal communication becomes more difficult. Painting or drawing together is a great way to bond without needing to talk. Plus, art can often help improve mood and bring your loved one a sense of accomplishment.
Hopefully, these strategies help you feel more prepared for you visit and make your holiday get-together more enjoyable. Remember that while your loved one may not remember the details of your visit, the positive emotions your company brings will stay with them.