Visiting Someone with Dementia

Prepare yourself for the visit

  • Do your very best to avoid statements such as "Do you remember…" or "Do you recall…" These types of questions put a great deal of pressure on a person with dementia since they are often unable to remember. Be kind and patient with yourself. As social creatures we like to do a lot of reminiscing, and this new way of talking can be awkward. However, after a bit, leaving out the “remembers” will feel comfortable.
  • Call ahead to see what the best time of day is for both the person with dementia and their care-partner.
  • Think of what you would like to bring. If the conversation stalls or feels uncomfortable, you can focus on what you brought. Below are some ideas. Click on the links to find out more.
    • Arapahoe Libraries has special books written specifically for people in mid to late stage dementia. Pictures with adult vocabulary are interesting and engaging. People with dementia know when they’re looking at a children’s book.
    • If you will be staying awhile, perhaps a Caregiver Kit would work for you. The kits contain a puzzle, game, several books and movies to help pass the time.
    • Bring in a project you're working on or an object of interest you would like to share.
    • Bring music the person likes. Listening to music or singing together can bring out some of the most withdrawn people.
    • Keep the visit brief, especially for people who are further along. Being present and following a conversation can be very taxing for someone with dementia.

Saying "Hello!"

  • Introduce yourself fully. For example: "Hello mother. I'm Bob, your son," or  "Hello Mildred, I'm Nancy, an old friend of yours."
    • I will always remember the day my father woke up and said, "Well, who the heck are you?" These are times when we need to go with the flow, so I said, "It's me Debby, your favorite daughter." He replied, "Is that so, well OK." 

Spending time

  • Go with the flow. The person might be chatty or they might prefer quiet. Follow their lead.
  • Don't correct or argue with the person. They may say incorrect or odd things. Their reality isn't always the same as ours, and it's much easier for us to be flexible and go with the flow. 
  • When speaking to the person try to be facing them and slow your speech a bit. Their brain takes a bit more time to process information, and these efforts help.
  • If you should become tired or overwhelmed, gently end the visit and realize it takes time to adjust to the changes dementia causes.

Saying Goodbye

  • My favorite way of saying goodbye to someone with dementia is to gently hold their hands, look them in the eye and smile warmly, saying, "I had a wonderful time and thank you for spending it with me." This usually elicits a smile and a nod or reply.

In conclusion / evaluating your visit

The most important thing to remember about visiting a person with dementia is that the gift of your time and a pleasant interaction is the very best gift! Studies have shown that it doesn't matter what a person with dementia does, as much as how a person with dementia feels during the activity or interaction. Apparently, this mood can deeply affect what kind of day the person with dementia experiences. Therefore, if you have a lovely time together, whatever you choose to do, the good feelings will remain with your friend or relative for the rest of their day. What a lovely gift. Thank you!

As always, if you have any further thoughts or questions please feel free to ask to speak to one of the older adult services librarians. You can schedule an appointment or call us at 303-LIBRARY (303-542-7279).