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Visiting someone with dementia

Tips for visiting loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia

Nowadays, many of us have seen a relative or dear friend overcome by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Although the person is changed forever, we still love them and cherish what they have meant to us through the years.

We would like to provide them a few moments of happy interaction, but don’t want to upset them or make them unhappy. That’s not unusual. Sometimes family members and other loved ones want to visit a person afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, but just aren’t sure about it.  

Visits from loved ones are very important, as they help a resident with dementia maintain contact with the outside world and avoid social isolation. If you are uncertain or have questions about a visit, don’t hesitate to contact the social worker or other caregiving staff for guidance.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Wear cheery, bright clothing.
  • It is usually best to visit in the morning or early afternoon. Many people with dementia experience “sundown syndrome,” and become confused in the early evening hours.
  • Short, frequent visits are best. If you can only come infrequently and therefore feel the need to stay longer, it is better to break up the visit with some type of activity, such as taking the resident for a drive or out to dinner.
  • If you feel the resident does not recognize you, introduce yourself by name. Talk about the resident’s relatives or friends, because he or she is less likely to remember your friends or later generations of family members.
  • Introduce children by name. Most people with dementia will not comprehend their relationship.
  • Everyone enjoys the visits of children, so be sure to prepare the children ahead of time for the fact that other residents besides the one you are going to see may want to visit with them.
  • Maintain eye contact and listen with interest, even if the conversation does not make sense.
  • Touch is important and comforting.
  • Everyone likes presents. Even bringing simple things like pictures or clippings from publications can serve to stimulate conversation.
  • When visiting your loved one, please avoid bringing the entire family at once or allowing everyone to talk at the same time. This is confusing for the resident.
  • Avoid correcting or contradicting the person with dementia, even when you know his/her statements are incorrect.
  • Don’t ask questions about the resident’s health or behavior as if he/she were not present.