Senior memory care refers to an assisted living facility specifically designed to give care and medical services to older adults with memory problems. It goes beyond the standard services provided to seniors in independent living communities.
Moreover, it provides a specialized kind of supportive care that focuses on dealing with and bettering the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Letting your senior loved one enter a memory care facility is a challenging but necessary choice. As much as you want to provide for their needs 24/7, you just can’t because of other responsibilities that need your attention.
However, being in senior memory care does not mean that you won’t have to visit your loved one.
Studies suggest that constant communication and visits from family and friends help improve the condition of patients with dementia. This includes:
- Improves overall well-being
- Helps older adults be emotionally engaged
- Enhances their memory
- Strengthens relationships
- Helps to keep their connection with their family
- Makes them happy and uplifted
- Encourages them to get better
Here are some tips on how to make the most out of every visit to your loved one.
1. Coordinate With the Staff
Routines are essential in helping seniors with dementia cope with their memory issues. Familiarity calms and relaxes their mind, making them less prone to aggression and agitation.
Moreover, it improves their mental well-being and gives them a sense of independence to do familiar things on their own.
This is why memory care facilities have their own set of daily schedules that they faithfully adhere to. Respect their time by planning your visits ahead of time and coordinating with the staff about your visitations.
This way, they will know when to insert your visits into your loved one’s schedule. They can also orient your loved one ahead of time about your visit so as not to upset them with the sudden change in their routine.
2. Limit Visitors
In the meantime, it is better to stick visitation privileges to exclusive family members and some close friends.
Try visiting with only one or two people at a time, those who are really close to your loved one. Elderlies with dementia have a hard time remembering even the most immediate family member.
So, visiting in large groups with many relatives in tow can make them feel overwhelmed and intimidated.
3. Introduce Yourself
Dementia is a very unpredictable disorder. It can already cause memory loss, even in its early stages. There is no telling whether or not your loved one will recognize you when you visit them.
So, it is important to always identify yourself and your relationship with them, with a smile, and call them by their name (e.g., Grandma Lois, Uncle Art).
Additionally, do your introductions by being at their level and in their line of sight to prevent them from getting intimidated.
It is okay if they do not recognize you at first, or for the whole visit, it happens. Facial recognition becomes more challenging as the disease progresses, so don’t take it personally.
As your visits become regular, your loved one will eventually remember who’s there for them, one way or another.
4. Prepare Meaningful Activities
Visiting your loved one is something you have probably been looking forward to doing, so make it worthwhile by coming prepared. You can:
- Bring something they love such as a favorite book, their favorite video, or a prized possession
- Watch their favorite movie with them.
- Go on short walks, if they want.
- Let them tour you inside their room or in the community.
- Draw or paint together.
- Bring photo albums and have a little trip down memory lane
Some senior memory care facilities have specific programs that you and your loved one can do together during your visit there. Time your visits during these programs so that you can bond over something.
5. Encourage Conversations
Conversing with your loved one during your visits will help build and strengthen your relationship. It can also improve their condition, as well as their emotional well-being over time.
- Since they are having a hard time processing information, try to use simpler words during conversations.
- Talk slowly but be direct and concise. Use a gentle yet friendly and positive tone when conversing.
Other important points to remember are as follows:
- Make eye contact and be at their level when engaging them in a conversation.
- Stay on light and positive topics.
- When asking questions, use an open-ended one or try to give them choices so as not to overwhelm them.
- Avoid arguing or upsetting topics. Even when your loved one is having a bad day, divert the conversation into something uplifting.
- Be careful not to use the phrase “Do you remember.”
- Bring back old, happy memories with them but be careful not to include those that can trigger a bad memory.
6. Silence Is Okay
As much as you love a hearty chat filled with laughter, sometimes, what you each need is a period of silence to be enjoyed together.
If you or your loved one are not up for a conversation, then that is okay. You can sit together and watch the sunset instead. Or, enjoy the relaxing sounds of day-to-day life as you walk in silence together.
7. Create a Positive Atmosphere
Visiting a loved one in senior memory care takes a lot of preparation—physically, mentally, and emotionally. But you should always remember to be empathic about your loved one’s feelings.
Adjust to the needs of your loved one, whenever possible. Always bring positive and friendly energy whenever you come for a visit. Be mindful of your words, tones, gestures, and nonverbal cues.
Research the behavior and personality changes that come with dementia so that you can prepare for an outburst that might happen.
8. Keep Visiting
Staying connected with loved ones has a massive impact on the well-being of patients with dementia.
Even as the disease progresses, make sure that you will always visit them. Find the time to bond together. They might have a hard time recognizing you physically, but emotional memory is still there.