You've avoided the prospect of your elderly parent moving to an assisted living community with a memory care unit for as long as you can. Now, however, the dementia has worsened to the extent that sometimes they don't recognize you, and you don't think they are safe when left alone for many hours a day.
One issue that troubles you a great deal is what visiting your parent will be like away from the familiarity of their home. What if they usually don't know you? What if they don't remember that you visit regularly? These concerns are valid ones, but there are ways you can manage the situation for the most positive results.
Tips for Connecting
You may not be able to spark the person's memory every time you visit, but you can still make a connection. You might:
- bring a family photo album to look through together
- bring a CD player and listen to music they used to enjoy; they might still remember that music
- bring one of your parent's favorite foods, as long as there aren't dietary restrictions against it
- encourage them to talk about things they remember from years ago
If the person enjoys physical touch, hold hands or put your hand on their arm while conversing. You also might gently rub soothing lotion on the hands like a massage.
Accept the Person's Current Reality
When you visit, accept how your parent relates to you at the moment without trying to force recognition. Sometimes they may know exactly who you are, and other times there may be no remembrance at all.
You might try giving a gentle reminder while helping keep their dignity intact. For instance, you could say who you are, then offer an understandable reason why they didn't know you. For instance, explain that you're wearing your hair differently, dressing differently or that the light in the room is poor.
If your parent mentions deceased family members as though they are still living, or reminisces about events that didn't actually happen, you don't need to make any corrections. Go along with their current reality.
Research from the University of Iowa has found that people with Alzheimer's have lingering positive emotions even when they don't remember what generated those emotions. That means that although your parent may not remember that you visited, the benefit of feeling better emotionally will have longer-lasting effects than the memory itself.
Tour assisted living facilities that have memory care units and learn about the level of care offered. Begin making plans for your parent's move when you decide which community is the best fit. Although this life transition is distressing, have the peace of mind that you're doing the right thing for your loved one.