Visiting Your Aging Parent with Memory Loss | Avalon Memory Care

Visiting Your Aging Parent with Memory Loss

As a loving son or daughter, you naturally want regular visits with your parent. And even though life has changed as your parent’s dementia has progressed, it’s our goal at Avalon Memory Care to help both of you feel comfortable and connected during your visits. Here are some tips to make your visits memorable:

Visiting Your Parent

Our visitation areas for families are specially designed to minimize distractions and promote comfort. We have a beautiful sitting area with plenty of natural light for enjoying board games, puzzles, or crafts together. If the weather permits, you and your parent might like to relax on the covered decks or take a stroll around our gorgeous garden areas to admire the flowers or do some birdwatching. Many families prefer to visit during the morning or early afternoon hours, as some of our residents with Alzheimer’s experience sundowning symptoms later in the evening.

Sharing a Meal

Family members are always welcome to share a meal with their loved ones in our comfortable dining room. Our gathering spaces encourage community and conversation, much like a traditional home setting that residents might recognize from their earlier years. From tables that seat many to cozy islands where everyone can casually come together, we want every visitor to feel at home with their loved one. Our chef-prepared meals are as delicious as they are nutritious, and our menu focuses on whole foods: fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, and meats. We additionally customize means for specific dietary needs, allergies, and food sensitivities.

Bringing Additional Visitors

Families often wish to visit in groups during the holiday season since everyone is together for the holidays. Still, our experience has been that smaller groups are better for individuals receiving Alzheimer’s support services. Think about your loved one’s social anxiety levels before dementia to help guide you on whom to bring. If they were more introverted in their younger days, then the need to recharge might be enhanced with dementia. Be mindful of not overdoing it and check for signs of interaction fatigue.

If your parent becomes agitated by the overstimulation of larger groups, try scheduling two or three visitors a few times throughout the holidays. Staggering visits will also enable everyone to have more moments of connection with your parent. It will simplify dynamics and allow your parent to focus on each visitor.

Helping Visitors Make the Most of Their Visits

Give visitors an update on your loved one’s current behavior and capacity. Visitors who have not seen your parent for a while may need to know what to expect. Ask them to introduce themselves simply: “Hi Aunt Mary, I’m John, your nephew,” to help your parent place them if possible.

Let any inexperienced visitors know that your loved one may not act like they remember them. They may even call them by a different name. Assure them that this is what dementia does and not to fret—they’re still important to your loved one.

Remind visitors the two essential factors in communicating with your parent are a pleasant tone and friendly facial expression. Encourage them to go with the flow of the conversation and keep questions simple. Chatting about past times or looking at old photos can be an excellent way to spend time together.

Tell visitors that it’s also okay to just sit together during visits, holding hands or listening to music. The presence of loved ones is the best gift for your parent, no matter what happens during the visit.

Initiating Conversation

Many people with dementia might not remember recent events, but memories of their younger days can be recalled. There are many ways to engage a senior with cognition challenges. You might start by jogging their memory with a fact or detail of that event…and see if that will get them talking. An example could be, “Mom, I was just thinking of that road trip we took when the windshield wipers flew off in a rainstorm. I can’t believe we survived that debacle!”

Here are some other conversation starters:

  • “Dad, we used to have so much fun going to the batting cages. You’ve always been so passionate about baseball.”
  • “Mom, it looks like you’re so happy in this photo. I wonder what you were thinking about that day.”
  • “Auntie, you had some amazing travels when you were a young woman. Can you tell me about your favorite place you visited?
  • “Nana, you made the best cakes every week. How did manage to do everything and still bake?
  • “Grandpa, I read a book about race car drivers and it made me think of you. What do you think is the coolest car?

Bringing Personal Items

Please feel free to bring personal items to help your loved one decorate for the holidays.
Remember that blinking lights, décor with motion detectors, or noises can be startling for people with dementia. Simple decorations like a bright poinsettia, plush figures, wreaths, and garlands can add a lot of holiday cheer to your parent’s room. Maybe add a few photographs of family Christmases past or some ornaments that trigger special memories.

Perhaps your loved one saved old Christmas cards from friends and family. Bring their collection in to reminisce and share stories of the people who’ve been in their life.

Another way to get them chatting is to bring in an old school or company directory, address book, or family tree chart to stir memories of those they used to see or socialize with. If you have photos of these individuals…even better!

In the mood to bake? Holiday treats to share are a popular gift as well.

Keeping Traditions Going

Maybe there are special traditions that are specific to your family that you’d like to bring a version of to your senior. Even if it can’t be exactly the same, do those familiar acts of kindness for your loved one.

Maybe it’s stuffing a stocking with some creature comforts or their favorite things. Additionally, a flameless candle might bring back good memories of midnight church services or the soft candlelight in windows. If your loved one spent many Christmases enjoying old carols, bring a playlist of familiar songs they listened to each year. President of The Aging Experience, Anthony Cirillo, says, “Music activates something in people, no matter how advanced their dementia.”

If you know your loved one treasures holiday stories like “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “A Christmas Carol,” or the Nativity story, bring a copy to read with them.

Incorporate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice traditions that your senior celebrated before their dementia diagnosis. Try a flameless Menorah for small spaces or favorite Kwanzaa foods, including macaroni and cheese and Southern peach cobbler.

You can adapt old traditions to meet your loved one where they are today. Think of what brightened them up during the holidays years ago and see how you can help them relive the joy.

The compassionate assisted living caregivers at Avalon Memory Care want you to know that while your parent is living with us, they will receive nothing less than respectful, loving care within our comfortable, safe, and fully-staffed homes.

We welcome your visits. Please take your time while visiting your loved one here and do let us know if you have any questions about your parent’s memory care.

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Granddaughter | Arlington, TX
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Granddaughter | Arlington, TX

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