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With Christmas quickly approaching, it can be tempting to idealize nursing home visits – particularly if your loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. The nature of the diseases make family members want to believe their loved ones will be just a bit better.
Seeing things from the perspective of your loved one can help smooth the way to a more satisfying visit. Below, we’ve compiled eight holiday visit tips from Alzheimer’s Disease International, the Minnesota Health Department, the National Institute on Aging, and the Mayo Clinic.
- During your visit, use slow and gentle motions. Smile. Keep lots of eye contact. Try to go along with your loved one’s stories, rather than arguing or negating them.
- If possible, visit with someone else. Review the nursing home’s policy on pets and children – they can help brighten a loved one’s day.
- Keep in mind the important fact that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia thrive on routine. Carolers, unexpected parties, and having too many people around can cause stress. Keep visits low-key and uncrowded.
- If you take a loved one home, remember to keep his or her medications handy, and to accommodate for dietary restrictions. Often, people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have severe sugar and/or sodium restrictions.
- Once at home, try to engage your loved one in gentle, low-stress activities. Ideas might include baking cookies, stringing popcorn garlands, and creating photo albums.
- Make sure you’re ready in case of an emergency. Have the numbers of nearby hospitals, as well as your loved one’s primary caregivers at his or her nursing home.
- And finally, take time to care for yourself. Take a walk outside. Spend some time in a “quiet” room in the house. If you’re feeling extra stressed, talk things over with a trusted family member.
The holidays can be a wonderful time to reconnect with elderly family members. If you put a bit of extra time and effort into the reunion, the visits will be that much more rewarding.
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