Jun 18, 2018

How Often Should You Visit a Memory Care Patient

Dr. Rita A. Jablonski is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced persons I know when it comes to memory care, dementia and caregivers.

The role of visitation in Memory care and dementia care.

I forwarded Rita a question from one of our readers.

"How Often Should You Visit a Memory Care Patient When They First Go In"?

This is an important question, and is often a great source of anxiety for Alzheimer's caregivers.

The answer often depends on the actual circumstances at the time.

Topic - Memory Care

By Rita A. Jablonski
Alzheimer's Reading Room

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Hi, Bob.

The answer depends on the physical and mental condition of both parties. Some caregivers are so worn out by the time placement occurs that they can only visit 1-2 times a week. The location of the facility from the caregiver can also affect visiting schedules. Optimally, daily visits are good because it allows the family to see how the individual is adjusting to the new surroundings, and if the new facility is responsive to the needs of the individual.

I pay more attention to the quality of the visits than the quantity of the visits.

One of the authors on this site mentioned how some visitors would interact with her mother and ask, "Do you know who I am?" These interactions resulted in a negative experience for both visitor and resident. Visitors who accept the person with dementia as he or she is, who happily listen to the repetivie stories or some of the "fractured fairy tales," without judgment or argument, create a positive experience.

I've watched the opposite happen, especially around Christmas and Mother's Day. Family members who refuse, or who cannot, enter Alzheimer's World and instead expect logic, reasoning, and arguments to somehow "fix" the person with dementia, often have unhappy visits and leave a very agitated, depressed, and sad person behind in their wake of good intentions. This experience further alienates them from their loved one, and creates a negative spiral where the family visits less and less because the visit is upsetting to both parties.

Also, as you and other authors have pointed out, persons with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia experience the passage of time very differently.

When my mother-in-law was in a nursing home for physical therapy, I visited every evening after work. We had a routine. We would sit and talk for a couple of minutes, and then we would walk to the other side of the facility and sit outside on her favorite bench and look at the rose gardens. If the weather was cool or rainy, we walked to the same area but sat inside and looked out the windows.

I was there for probably an hour, maybe 90 minutes. But I came every day, and we had a routine.

After I left, if Mary mentioned that no one had been there to see her, the nurses would tell her that they had just seen the two of us walking. She would smile and say, "Oh, that's right."

My husband, however, was not dealing well with the situation and he could only handle weekly visits. Mary would ask me everyday where her son was and tell me that she had not seen him for weeks. Rather than argue, I told her he was out of town on business (he did travel for work at times) and that he loved her. He would come on Saturday...and he did.

Some family members restrict their visits because they are concerned that "leaving the person behind" may upset the person with Alzheimer's disease. I've seen this happen when the family member walks toward the door and exits, while the resident stays behind.

The departure can better be handled by exiting during a natural break in the day's activities. I would help Mary get ready for bed, and then leave--it made sense to Mary, it was her bedtime, and it was time for me to go home and go to sleep.

On weekends, when we visited in the afternoon, we left at suppertime. It was time for her to go to the dining room for her meal, and time for us to go home and fix dinner for the kids.

Anyway, that is my $0.02. I'm curious how other experts addressed the question. I enjoy reading other bloggers. I always learn something!

Rita Jablonski, PhD, CRNP, FAAN is an internationally recognized researcher and expert on non-drug ways to handle dementia-related behaviors. She is an Associate Professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a nurse practitioner in The Memory Disorders Clinic at the Kirklin Clinic, UABMC, Birmingham, Alabama. You can contact Rita or ask her a caregiver question at this email address - rjablonski@uabmc.edu

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