Written by Active Minds on Friday the 24th of May 2019.
Everyone loves having visits from their friends and family and this is no different for those living with late stage dementia. Regular visits can provide your loved one with a source of support and comfort, helping them to stay connected with others. However, uncertainty of what to expect can make visitors hesitant, but with the right preparation visiting someone with late stage dementia can be a rewarding experience for both you and your loved one.
Those living with late stage dementia often need more physical care and as such they do receive touch in relation to those tasks. However, touch and sensory activities can be highly useful for showing care and love during a visit, especially if your loved one’s verbal communication has declined.
Gentle touch can be very comforting and calming for those living with dementia; why not hold their hand, gently pat their shoulders or brush their hair. These kinds of activities are very calming and relaxing and can be fantastic for connecting with your loved one.
During later stage dementia it can be common that verbal communication can decline, however this does not necessarily mean that your visit has to be silent. Continue to talk to your loved one, even if they are unable to reciprocate, as they will still enjoy hearing stories of your life, current events or memories of the past.
Be aware of your loved ones expressions and body language as often these can be very telling of mood and reaction to what you are saying. Make sure to smile and make eye contact and try not to appear tense or sad as this may impact negatively.
Getting outside to enjoy some sun and fresh air is beneficial for everyone, including those living with dementia. If the weather permits it, why not go for a short walk or just sit outside with your loved one. Not only will the air be refreshing, but a change in scenery could be good for both of you. It can serve to lift your loved one’s spirit especially if they are becoming stressed or agitated indoors.
The most important thing when visiting someone with later stage dementia is to know what to expect and be prepared to deal with different things as they arise. Late stage dementia will likely mean your loved one may have memory, cognitive or communication difficulties, but this does not necessarily have to impact on the visiting experience. Although verbal abilities may decline there are still visual clues, such as expressions, which you can look out for and respond to, as you would in conversation.
Once you accept that you may have to adapt the way you do certain things there are benefits for both visitors and for those living with dementia. The best preparation for a visit is to know what to expect and have tools at hand to deal with any issues. Why not take plenty of things with you that your loved one enjoys, or visual aids to help your loved one communicate with you, excellent examples are things such as family photos or flash cards, all of which will help make the visiting experience enjoyable.