How often you should visit a dementia patient in a nursing home depends on how long they’ve been in their new community, how quickly they adjust to change and how agitated they become during and after visits. Experts have varying suggestions, but everyone is different, so trust your instincts.

When your loved one first moves into a memory care facility, visit them frequently to make the transition as stress-free as possible. For the first 2-3 weeks, it’s generally recommended that you visit as often as you can for as long as you can. Daily visits are common during this initial transition and may help your loved one adjust more quickly to their new environment and settle in sooner than they might with fewer visits. If the facility has a policy against visitors during the first 2 weeks, it might not be the right facility for your loved one.

When and How to Shorten Visits

Gradually put more days between your visits as your loved one becomes used to their new home. However, don’t hold yourself to a set timeframe of when to decrease your visits. Your loved one may take longer to adjust, and you don’t want to add to their stress by cutting down on your visits too soon. You may want to stick to frequent visits for a month or longer. Again, trust your instincts. However, never suddenly stop visiting altogether, which can be very confusing and distressing to a person with dementia. 

Pay attention so you recognize when your loved one has become more accustomed to their new surroundings and routine. It’s suggested that after 2-3 weeks, visit every other day instead of daily. After a couple more weeks, visit every third day. As you reduce your number of visits, also shorten the length. A person with dementia generally doesn’t remember how long you’ve been there, so the length of the stay isn’t as important as the frequency. Shorter, more frequent visits generally work better than fewer visits for longer periods.

How to Make Visits to a Dementia Patient More Meaningful

Announce yourself when you enter the room by saying your name and how you’re related to the dementia patient as a friendly reminder. Make this the first thing you do each visit. It could be what they need to jog their memory and start the visit on a positive note. Also, bring some of your loved one’s favorite things each visit, such as a treat or flowers, to help trigger their recognition. Even if they don’t remember you, it’s still a nice thing to do. 

Always visit during their free time instead of during activities they like to participate in. You want your loved one to enjoy their new home, so establishing a new routine is essential. Take care not to confuse them by disrupting their new rhythm. Suggest doing something together they enjoy, such as playing a game, listening to their favorite music or walking around the memory care facility in nice weather. Ultimately, any visit, no matter the length or timing, is about connecting with your loved one and showing you care. Try to relax and enjoy the time you spend together so it positively impacts both of you.