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5 Items to Make a Great Visit to the Person with Alzheimer's

Posted by on 3/26/2015 to Dementia Activities
Family and friends can be nervous, or even scared, to visit the person with Alzheimer's or other form of dementia.  The person may be confused to where he or she is and what year it is, so he or she may not recall who the visitor is or how they know each other. 

Also, the person likely will have difficulty holding a conversation.  He or she might have trouble understanding what you are saying, not be able to answer questions, and may respond back with incomplete thoughts or a wrong choice of words.

But this does not mean that a nice visit cannot be had.  The person will most often appreciate the visit, even if he or she cannot place who you are. Don't worry about that - just say you were in the neighborhood and wanted to spend some time visiting!  Then bring out one or more of these 5 activity items to help overcome the awkwardness and to connect with person.  You can have a very nice visit, talking about the old days or favorite past times or doing an activity together, allowing an enjoyable visit for all.

5 Items for a Great Visit with the Person with Alzheimer's

Visiting the Person with Alzheimers: Great Items to Take
  • Pictures - Pictures can bring back memories, but do need to be chosen carefully. Consider what periods of life the person does still recall and choose pictures from that time frame. For instance, very old photos will need to be chosen for the gentleman who believes he is only 20-something years old. Or choose photos or pictures that revolve around a person's interests. For instance, a picture book of flowers from the library may be nice for a former gardener to look through. Pictures of classic cars could work for a classic car aficionado.
  • Music - Load some music onto your phone or Ipod or bring in a CD player with CD's for a fun activity to enjoy together. Again, consider the interests of the person. Does he or she like (or used to like) classic singers of old (Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole), showtunes (Sound of Music, Oklahoma), or the King of Rock himself (Elvis)? If you are not sure, bring a variety and see what works. Also, consider softer, gentler music for those who get restless (or 'sundown') during the late afternoon.
  • Hands on Activity - Having something tangible to hold and use can eliminate the need for conversation altogether. Some easy items to bring along include: large-piece puzzles, large-style playing cards, checkers, watercolor paints and paper, stacking block games like Jenga, dough to roll into balls for cookies, silk or real flowers to arrange in a vase, etc. The ideas are endless. Think of things that really have no right or wrong way to use them and don't get stuck on having to play a game the 'right way' (for example, with the checkers). See our MindStart products for items that are already adapted for the needs of those with Alzheimer's. Also, be sure to monitor the person using items, especially if he is one to confuse objects with food and put them into his mouth. 
puzzle activity for Alzheimers

  • Food! - Who does not like a tasty treat! People with dementia tend to keep their sweet tooth when other foods may no longer seem appetizing. Milkshakes, a piece of cake or pie, or a cookie may be wonderful treats to share. Think of seasonal items, such as fresh summer strawberries or pumpkin muffins in the fall, as they can serve as conversation starters about the season. Even a hot cup of coffee or tea may be a nice treat for the person. Be sure to check with a caregiver or nurse first, if the person has dietary restrictions or swallowing precautions that affect food and drink choices.
  • Stimulate the Senses - The person with dementia often has less overall stimulation, as the world they are able to live in has shrunk. For instance, the person  may not get outside as often, may no 
    longer cook, may no longer work at the tool bench, etc. So bringing items in that can stimulate the senses - and often memories and conversation - is very beneficial. Some examples that stimulate smell include fresh flowers, cinnamon muffins or tea, scented lotions or aromatherapy essential oils, freshly sanded or stained wood project, etc. If weather permits, take a stroll outside and find all the gems of nature that stimulate smell, touch, and visual appeal. These ideas are especially useful for people in the later stages of dementia.

Hope these ideas give you a comfortable and enjoyable visit. Even thought the person with dementia may not remember the details of your visit later, he or she WILL have those positive feelings from the visit remain - and that is priceless.

Interested in more dementia care tips?  MindStart e-news is filled with practical information and tips to help support the person with dementia and caregivers.

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Lisa Kane
Date: 4/30/2016

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