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5 Tips for Visiting with a Person who Has Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
Categories: Brain Disorders , Senior Care Tips | Posted: 7/2/2011 | Views: 6336

Alzheimer’s disease is not just one thing. It can look very different from person to person, from one day to the next, or even at different points of the day. So, communicating and visiting with someone can be tricky.

Therefore, it sometimes helps to go into the visit with a clear memory of who they are/were to you and act according to that image - trying to be as present as possible.  Here are some tips:


  1. Sometimes, just being present is enough. You don’t have to have serious conversations the whole time. Silence is okay, watching TV and laughing is okay. It is also okay to read a story or parts of a book out loud. If you have a small craft or job to do like shelling beans, this can be done together and often is a way to connect. Another thing to enjoy is photo albums or scrap books. You can even make a project out of making a scrapbook together.
  2. Don’t take things personally. The entire disease is so baffling to all of us. If a person suddenly becomes emotionally upset or says things that hurt or doesn’t remember things and this causes us pain, we have to remember it is not a person’s fault and keep reactions in check. Acceptance of whatever happens is the most helpful attitude you can walk in with. Likewise, it is not a good idea to make a persistent effort to drill old facts to jog his or her memory.
  3. Don’t over-stay your visit. 10-15 minutes is often sufficient. It is better to have a brief pleasant stay and come back soon than to over-stay and create fatigue for the host or your avoidance of future visits because of a lack of time.
  4. Connect in New Ways:  Some people believe that even in severe end-stage Alzheimer’s, a person still prefers the same foods, music, etc. that he or she did before the disorder. Bring music you know he or she likes or a project in line with what the person enjoyed before to share and connect.
  5. Skip Questions Sometimes: People with Alzheimer’s can get into a “question” mode and ask, “what day is it?” over and over again. If there are daily common questions, you may want to consider a white board where the common answers are posted so you can refer a person there. If the same questions keep coming, simply change the conversation. Sometimes answering the questions makes the pattern hard to stop.

Again, remember, your visit is vital to a person faced with health challenges and it is not necessary to be witty, amazing, or perfect – it is only important that you be fully present with someone and let him or her know you care. Small, but frequent and regular, visits can be the best part of the day for many people who are otherwise isolated by their health conditions. It is sometimes hard or uncomfortable – but also is one of the most loving things you can do as a friend or a family member.


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