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Tips on Visiting an Alzheimers Relative or Friend

What do I say or do?

Tell the person that you love her, that you came to see her and that you'll come back again. (Regardless of the reaction.)

Sit close, away from the window glare, at eye level, and touch or hold as preferred by your relative or friend.

Listen for clues to feelings in their body language, eyes or repeated phrases.

Gentle teasing or joking provides a sense of continuity and pleasure to those who have always communicated this way in their families.

Silence can be golden. . . tender moments watching birds, listening to music, simply holding hands, sermons or shared private meditation or prayer. Read: "A Strawberry Malt and 3 Squeezes, Please!"

Respect personal space and possessions. Ask before moving things around or sitting on the bed. Go slow. . . keep pace with your relative's or friend's concentration, tolerance, etc.

Substitute shared activities for limited conversation: manicures, hairdos, massages, looking at photos, writing letters together, hand work, watching TV if tolerable, volunteer work, walks and outings.

Start your own visiting rituals: reading favorite passages, verses or stories; visiting other residents together; checking the birdfeeder, etc.

Reminisce: your favorite Christmas, your first car, the smell of a wood stove, baking at your home. . . (Note:  if your relative or friend is very impaired, you'll need to reminisce further back in time.)

Use the arts and your skills: music, poetry, hymns, photos, video or audio tapes, artwork, games (even if your relative or friend can't play well, he or she may still enjoy the activity).

Bring holiday decorations and special foods or cherished holiday items from the past. Read: "Caregiving Hints for the Holidays."

Organize a private coffee or tea hour and invite friends and family to visit. Make sure your relative has something special to wear on that day.

Are You a Long-Distance Caregiver?

Few long-distance caregivers are able to spend as much time with their loved one as they would like. The key is to make periodic visits and use your time effectively.

  • Make appointments with your loved one's physician, lawyer and financial adviser during your visit so you can facilitate the making of important decisions.

  • Meet with neighbors, friends and other relatives so they can share their observations about how the person is doing. Ask if there have been any behavioral changes, health problems or safety issues.

  • Take time to reconnect with your loved one by talking, listening to music, going for a walk or doing other activities you enjoy together.

Remember:  You will never win an argument with a person with Alzheimer's disease. It may be hard to let go of old habits like arguing or reasoning with a spouse, parent or friend who does not understand what they are arguing about or why they are so frustrated. Avoid arguments. It is better to distract the person instead of arguing or confronting him.

The Alzheimers Book Shelf - Featuring a listing of over 100 books about Alzheimers disease, plus a link to nearly 800 more.
Visit Larry's Book Store for a large selection of "relationship" books, music and more.

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National Speakers Association International Federation of Professional Speakers Larry James
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