Dementia - Spending Quality Time With A Loved One
Dementia is a progressive disease and it may become difficult to visit your loved one when they are in the later stages. They may not recognize you or even be able to converse making it hard to know how to be supportive. Make the visit more meaningful by planning your visit in advance.
You might want to bring:
- A photo album
- Music you know they love
- A favorite food
- A book or church bulletin to read aloud
- A special memento
- Lotion for a hand or foot massage
- A pet, if allowed
Touch can be instrumental to carry out activities such as bathing or dressing. Research shows that people with dementia can tell the difference between this activity and expressive touch. Expressive touch is when we hold hands, put an arm around the person, or give a back rub or hug. This conveys acceptance, nurturing and caring. A caring touch can trigger the brain to release natural chemicals that suppress pain and depression. Massage a loved one's hand, brush their hair or apply lotion to the hands and feet.
Be careful to avoid speaking down to your loved one. If you haven't always called your loved one "sweetie," "dear," or "honey" don't do it now it will only make them more agitated. Keep in mind that they were high functioning adults and you should respect their dignity in small ways. Remember to speak slowly, people with dementia take longer to process what you have said.
Keep in mind that the sense of smell is so basic that when we smell a certain odor it can bring back memories from decades ago. You might want to bring along the following:
- A rose, a lavender sachet, or a candle that smells like pumpkin or apple pie
- A favorite perfume or aftershave
- Aromatherapy oil
We all know the power of music, it can transport you back to a place and time and evoke such vivid memories and sensations. There has been a lot of research on the positive effects that music has on individuals with Dementia. Therapist have been using music therapy to promote memory and a sense of self in the treatment of persons with Dementia for an extensive number of years. Selecting songs that have a personal meaning; a song played at their wedding, songs that were popular during their youth, can have a calming and uplifting effect. It can provide memory recall, positive changes in moods and stimulate and promote interest.
Some times experiencing different textures can be stimulating to a person with Dementia. A cozy throw, cool stone or even a stuffed animal may provide comfort. Wrapping someone's hands or feet in a hot, wet towel might feel very soothing and relaxing. Opening a window to feel a breeze and also be an enjoyable experience.
Use your imagination. Think about what would bring you comfort. What would feel good to you? For each visit plan a simple, new, creative way to bring pleasure, serenity or comfort. The quality of time spent with your loved one will improve for both of you.
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