Connecting to others is essential to the quality of life for those living with dementia. However, family and friends may hesitate to visit – although not from a lack of caring. While it can be difficult to witness loved ones struggling to make sense of their world, the reluctance is often due to the uncertainty of how to spend time together.

Visiting loved ones living with dementia can be a challenge. But discovering ways to connect and reassure them that they still matter can truly make a difference. Understanding dementia and ways you can help your loved one feel comfortable is a gift you can bring. Both the individual and visitor benefit from time spent together.

5 tips to prepare for a positive visit with a loved one living with dementia

1. Consult with the caregiver: Learn about the process and challenges that those living with dementia face. The primary caregiver or a staff member in the memory care community can help. They will let you know the best time of day to visit and any insights into activities that might be enjoyed.

2. Set realistic expectations: Understand that everyone can respond to dementia differently – and from one visit to the next. The key to successfully connecting is to be compassionate and flexible. Plan ahead but be patient and prepared during the visit, including what to do if things aren’t going well.

3. Keep visits short and be watchful of their limits: It’s usually a good idea to keep your visits brief, especially if you’re unsure how your loved one will respond. Don’t argue if the person says something incorrect or is confused about an event or person. It’s true for them. Watch for cues of tiredness or anxiety.

4. Plan activities ahead of time: It’s always best to prepare before a visit, including which activities you might wish to share. Plan for at least two options in case your loved one doesn’t seem to enjoy the first one. Be aware of abilities and promote their success.

5. Be present in the moment: Focus on the emotional connection rather than the content of conversations or the successful completion of an activity. What’s key is sharing time together and the feeling that someone cares.

Download our complimentary Memory Care Guide.

10 activity ideas for visiting a loved one living with dementia

Always begin by considering the abilities and preferences of a loved one, as well as any suggestions from caregivers. The following are a few ideas that might be of interest:

1. Reminisce with photo albums: Bring in family photo albums to look through together, sparking memories and conversations. Don’t question their recollections but enjoy browsing.

2. Listen to music: For those living with dementia, music memories can remain long after other reminiscences are gone. Playing a person’s favorite music can be soothing and may reduce agitation or anxiety.

3. Enjoy arts and crafts: Engaging in easy, creative activities like painting or assembling simple crafts can be therapeutic. This can also take the focus away from making conversation, if that is difficult.

4. Garden together: If the community has an outdoor area with a garden and the weather is enjoyable, spending time planting or tending to plants can create feelings of usefulness and joy.

5. Take a walk outdoors: Take a short walk if the environment and weather support the activity. This can be beneficial for both physical and mental health.

6. Read together: Reading from a favorite book or magazine can be comforting. Hearing words that may ring familiar or looking at pictures can be a pleasant activity.

7. Play games or puzzles: Working on simple puzzles or brain games suited to their ability level offers the chance to have fun while stimulating memories.

8. Cook or bake together: If at home or if the community allows the activity, consider engaging in simple cooking or baking. You might bring in recipes from childhood or holiday favorites.

9. Watch classic films or TV shows: This can be a great activity to share if your loved one was a movie or television buff. Bring in classic films or shows they remember fondly.

10. Sit quietly together: If activities or conversations are difficult, don’t overlook the comfort of a gentle touch. Consider a hand or foot massage – or simply holding hands and offering a reassuring smile.

Remember the purpose of visiting a loved one living with dementia

The simplest activities can create meaningful moments for each of you. Try to learn from each visit – what worked well and what didn’t – and stay in touch with the primary caregiver or the memory care community. Dementia is a progressive disease and behavior and abilities change.

It’s the act of caring and connection for loved ones living with dementia that’s most important. Recognize that what worked one visit may not work the next. But even if they are unable to express their gratitude in words, know that it will be felt.

The Charleston Senior Living Community

Locally owned and operated, we offer personalized care by our dedicated team members. Setting a new standard in Assisted Living and Memory Care, we don’t define our residents by their limitations or illness but instead believe in focusing on the positive and the possibility.

The Charleston Senior Community includes private apartments for assisted living residents and for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Your loved ones will benefit from our attention to detail, routine health assessments, delicious dining and daily activity programs as we support everyone to live their best life.

Consider a few of our amenities:

  • Chef-led dining program
  • Community movie theater
  • Salon
  • Ballroom
  • Live entertainment
  • Outdoor patio
  • Social lounges
  • Housekeeping

If you or your family is thinking about Assisted living or Memory care, we hope you will consider The Charleston Senior Community. We are a trusted resource and are here to answer any questions, contact us today.

We also invite you to download our complimentary Memory Care Guide to learn more about this type of senior living.

Guide to memory care