Dec 12, 2018

Visiting a Person Living with Alzheimer's

Many people have told me how difficult they find it to visit friends and family who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Many people have told me how difficult they find it to visit friends and family who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.

By Marilyn Raichle
Alzheimer's Reading Room

“We have nothing to talk about. I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s so sad – she is everything she never wanted to be.”

“She would hate this so much. This was her worst nightmare.”

So the pattern begins...

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Visiting makes you sad or uncomfortable, so you don’t visit.

Not visiting makes you feel guilty, so you put off visiting again. “She won’t remember it anyway,” you rationalize.

When you finally do visit, you are even more of a stranger and the visits more of an obligation and a relief when over (probably for both of you).

And so it goes…

“Doesn’t seeing how your mother has changed make you sad?” I am asked. (I’m pretty sure tears are anticipated…)

“Not really,” I say quite honestly. I find mother to be utterly charming, quite funny and genuinely life-affirming.

But it took an adjustment.

I had to learn to stop projecting my fears on to Mom – stop thinking about how I would feel if I were in her shoes—how unhappy I would be.

But I’m not in her shoes and this isn’t about me.

When I began to listen and let her set the pace, when I learned to appreciate the pleasures of real time, when I was able to see Mom for who she is, not who I wanted her to be, there was no sadness – only love – and huge thanks that I have been lucky enough to share this stage of her life.

I see Mom’s life getting smaller and smaller—more and more content within the comfort of her small room filled with photos and pictures of her happy childhood, her life with Dad, the friendly faces of her dolls and stuffed animals, the pleasure in the moment … and I have to say that her life is far from diminished.

To use her favorite phrase – her life is Just Delightful.

Recently Mom and I were marching through the corridors of Assisted Living singing Onward Christian Soldiers. (Nearly 95 but the woman loves to march.)

She unexpectedly announced that she was going to get married again. (She and Dad had a remarkably happy marriage of 66 years.)

“Really?” I said. “Who’s the lucky man?”

“Oh, the same one,” she laughed, gleefully.

Utterly delightful.

Topic - How often to visit Alzheimer's patients

*Marilyn Raichle writes The Art of Alzheimer’s – How Mother Forgot Nearly Everything and Began to Paint – a blog about her mother Jean, art and Alzheimer’s. Marilyn also works as an arts management consultant in the Greater Seattle area.

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Originally published in the Alzheimer's Reading Room, January, 2014
"Visiting a Person Living with Alzheimer's"

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Comments From Our Readers on the Alzheimer's Reading Room Facebook Page

Kristina Ellis
Your emails and website saved my sanity and supported me when I was completely alone in my journey with my Mothers Alzheimer’s. She is still with me five years later and I am at Peace, as is she. Took a long while to get here, but your words, insights, encouragement, humor and willingness to share and share again, were instrumental in getting us all here.
Thank you

Rebecca Watkins Damron
I watch a Alzheimer's woman 92 and I too didn't know what to do, so I just started talking, about everything from kids to dishes to the world outside. Before long she chirpped in and shared so many stories and started wanting to do things gardening, cleaning decorating like she used too. She gives me advise and most of the time good. She's a blessing. Yes she repeats herself, and doesn't know my name, we just enjoy one day at a time. My sadness is that not one from her church will come to visit

Lou Ross
I love Alzheimer’s Reading Room

June Newsome
If it’s difficult for you, just think how difficult their life is. They’re still the same people and they need love, friendship and companionship. Just talk as you always have, read to them, sit and listen to music with them.

Amy Pendleton
My mom is in the final stage. I love visiting her. I hold her hand and I play her favorite music and just sit listening sometimes or sing to her. Sometimes I climb into her bed and cuddle with her. She loves it. I cherish our time together. She becomes so alive. God bless all of you!..

Carolyn Mullins
Brokaw Sad but true. People are uncomfortable and tend to avoid any contact. This isn’t catching. Just listen to them. Some really love visitors.

Maryanne Warner
They are still alive so just love them as they are. They need family and friends. If it was you would you want to be left alone?

Kay Datesman
This was the excuse friends gave me when they did not visit my husband in the nursing home. It was because they were uncomfortable, and do they blamed him. It was very hurtful behavior.

Peggy Poe DeLaruelle
Treat them like anyone else!! They are still there and a person who feels emotions !! Love them and talk about anything !!

Barbara Patricia
Sears When u r with some one just hold there hand go along with what they say mention things that happened in the past but if that doesn't get a response don't worry and beat yourself up u r with them and that is something u won't forget time is so precious xxxx

Ginette Vince Laraway
I think it is so sad when a mother’s own children stop visiting them. They may not remember that visit right after but they are happy while you are there. All you have to do is love them and be kind to them! It’s so simple.