Though your parent lives in a Memory Care community, you may want to bring them to your home for a visit, a holiday, or some other family gathering. For many Assisted Living residents, this presents a fairly straightforward trip to pick them up and bring them home. However, for those living with memory impairments, the trip can cause confusion, anxiety, and even agitation. Your parent’s short-term visit will go best if you do some planning in advance and keep in mind how your parent’s cognitive impairment may impact the visit. You can use these steps to help make the visit a success and to transition your parent back to their residence after you conclude your visit.
Plan the Visit for the Best Time of Day
For people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, daytime hours generally lead to the most successful visits. As the Alzheimer’s Association observes, people with dementia may have increases in behavioral problems starting at dusk and lasting into the night (a condition known as sundowning). Plan the visit as early in the day as possible, and if it’s a weekend visit, find a safe, comfortable place for your parent to rest in the evening hours.
Provide a Safe and Pleasant Environment
Keep your house nice and orderly. Reposition or remove items that can create obstacles or obstructions, such as bulky end tables or coat racks. Tack down area rugs that can serve as tripping hazards. Have soft music playing that you know your parent will like. Give your home a pleasant odor by cooking delicious foods and baked goods, or by lighting scented candles.
Offer a Sense of Routine
For people with dementia, sticking to a routine helps maintain a calm atmosphere less likely to result in anxiety. Obviously, a visit to your home will disrupt the daily routine established at the Memory Care community, but you can add a sense of routine by doing the following:
- Designate a chair or sofa where your parent can sit for each and every visit
- Serve familiar and comforting foods
- Tune the TV to a favorite television program or sporting event
- Have your parent bring along a familiar item, such as a blanket or pillow
- If your parent will spend the night, have a predictable schedule with regard to getting ready for the day, serving meals at predictable times, being diligent with medications, and having a regimented bedtime routine
While family gatherings can quickly escalate into noisy, hectic affairs, make sure everyone knows to maintain a zone of calmness around your parent—no shouting, no roughhousing, and certainly no arguing. Having grandchildren in the house can be a blessing for your parent, but make sure the children know to behave politely and respectfully.
Practice Good Communication Techniques
Be mindful of the communication challenges that exist for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Marie Marley, the award-winning author of several books on Alzheimer’s, offered these tips for effective communication with those who have Alzheimer’s:
- Make eye contact with them when speaking
- Position yourself at their level by sitting or kneeling; don’t stand or “hover” over them
- Speak slowly and in short sentences
- Don’t talk down to them as if they were a child
- Reminisce about the old times, possibly bringing photos or props to bring up pleasant memories
You can also find more tips related to this topic in our earlier post, “Engaging Your Loved One in Memory Care.”
Don’t Rush Your Goodbyes
Saying goodbye can be a distressing experience for a person with memory impairment, so you should try to make family farewells low key and without much fanfare. When you return to the Memory Care residence, spend a few minutes sitting and chatting. When it’s finally time to say goodbye until your next visit, emphasize that you’ll see each other again soon. If possible, engage your parent in another activity or conversation with staff members. This transition will make your departure less upsetting to your loved one as you go.
SHARE YOUR STORY: What recommendations would you make for transitioning a parent with dementia home, then back to Memory Care again?