Many people are uncomfortable when visiting a family member or friend in a nursing home. This is especially true when the person has Alzheimer’s disease. Visitors may find the environment depressing or may not know how to interact with a person who is nonverbal. Nevertheless, such residents greatly appreciate the individual attention and change in routine. Learning techniques to make visits more enjoyable may help you to overcome these barriers and visit more often. Have you by chance heard of the alternative to Boynton Beach’s Senior Centers?
The first hurdle is to find a comfortable room or area to sit in during the visits. If the person is bedbound, then obviously there are few choices. In this case, bring stimulating objects such as flowers, picture books, balloons or an artificial aquarium that will change the environment. Play music, an instrument, sing or recite simple poetry or nursery rhymes. You do not need a special talent, only willingness and a smile.
The person you are visiting will appreciate being moved to a different setting such as a lounge, atrium or outdoor patio. There are often other residents and visitors in these common areas that may provide additional social stimulation for both you and the person you are visiting. Perhaps you can all sing or chat together. When my mother was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, I found this very helpful and made friends who became my informal support group. She enjoyed the kind voices and smiles of these people who regularly greeted her when I wasn’t there and I returned the favor to their loved ones.
Visitors may choose to become involved with organized activities being offered by the facility, create their own activities or take the resident out into the community. When my mother was in the beginning stages of the disease, we did all three of these regularly. She enjoyed when I participated during her regular activities. But Mom especially loved outings such as getting a manicure, a movie or eating out. When it became too difficult to get my mother in and out of the car, I focused on bringing her to the nursing home patio. I have fond memories of the two of us sitting outside on a sunny day singing from the large print song book that I made. Music, looking at pictures and feeling interesting objects are always great activities to share with a nonverbal person, but remember they will appreciate simply hearing your voice.
Learn more about activities for individuals with dementia at:
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L is the author of Still Giving Kisses: A Guide to Helping and Enjoying the Alzheimers Victim You Love (Published by Lulu.com).