The role of family caregivers and friends is still very important, even after a person with dementia moves into residential care. Visiting helps both parties to remain connected, and to feel they are still an important part of each other’s lives There are some simple ways to help make visits as enjoyable as possible, and reduce stress for caregiver and resident alike. Examples include:
- Looking at family photo albums together
- Assisting with personal care – eg manicures or putting on makeup
- Playing games that the resident has enjoyed in the past
- Watching a favourite video
- Reading newspapers or magazines together
- Taking a stroll around the facility’s gardens
- If allowed by the residential care, bring a pet if the resident is an animal-lover
- Gentle hand massage with scented creams or oils, if they are tolerated
- Having a meal, such as afternoon tea, together
- Reading from a favourite book of poetry, or a well-loved story
- Other visitors – for instance grandchildren and other relatives
- Decorating their room together so it is bright, cheerful and welcoming
- In the later stages – sometimes simply holding hands can provide reassurance and comfort. Touch is another way to connect with someone who may have difficulty communicating verbally.
There is no correct number of times you should visit your loved one, nor is there a specific amount of time you should stay. The important thing is to make the visit as worthwhile and enjoyable as possible for you both. The aim should be to provide some welcome distraction and feelings of contentment that will hopefully remain for some time, even after you have left them.
When leaving after a visit, keep your farewells brief. Try not to linger, or apologise, or stay longer than you have intended. This can make leaving even more difficult when you visit next time. It can be a good idea to time your departure for when a meal is being served, or some other distraction is happening. Staff may be willing to divert your loved one while you exit, so that they are not focused on you leaving them.
Remember to be kind to yourself. If you are struggling with feelings of guilt or sadness, now that your loved one is in care, you may benefit from talking to someone. Alzheimer’s WA offers free counselling to caregivers. For more information on this service, visit our counselling page or phone 1300 66 77 88.