How to Help Those Visiting a Loved One With Severe Dementia

Company coming? The following suggestions will put visitors at ease as well as make the experience as pleasant as possible for your loved one with severe-stage dementia.

  • Suggest that visitors gently touch the person with dementia before they start to speak. Touch is a powerful communicator, even when language skills are diminishing. A gentle pat to the back or knee a few seconds before "hello" cues the person's attention and, more helpfully, reduces the odds of starting the visit off on a startled, panicked, or irritated note.

  • Remind visitors that hearing is not directly affected by dementia. Some people have a tendency to raise their voices and even shout when talking to the infirm. Not necessary!

  • Encourage conversation about the weather, mutual friends, any topic that feels natural -- with the reminder that it might be a one-sided conversation if your loved one doesn't have many verbal skills.

  • Forewarn visitors against quizzing your loved one or asking many "do you remember?" questions. The goal is to begin and end with a warm, happy mood. Any exchanges of actual information should be incidental plusses, not necessities.


over 1 year ago, said...

thankyou for the reminder about the hearing & the gentle touch also eye contact really helps!


over 2 years ago, said...

thanks for the reminder about a person's hearing ability. I know that is true, but the reminder was needed!


over 3 years ago, said...

I would like to see more articles on severe stage Alzheimers. My mom is closing in on this stage and while there is much information out there on early stage and not-so-early stage, there is not much out there for those of us whose parents are reaching the end of their journey of this horrible disease. i feel a little education would make it easier to go visit, if we were more prepared.


over 4 years ago, said...

Touching the person before speaking.


over 4 years ago, said...

The comments are truthful & very helpful. Somethimes I have to stop & think, remember she just doesn't understand what I'm saying again, The touch first to get her attention is needed. I take care of Mom, 92yrs, osteoporosis, mini strokes, & now dementia in my home. It can get very frustrating to talk/say the same thing 4 times before she understands.


over 4 years ago, said...

We have quite a few visitors at our house and they all love "Jack". I have printed this list out as an aid in explaining what to expect if they haven't been here in a while. I especially like the fourth bullet point point because we get that a lot. People seem to think they can "jog" his memory and he usually says, "yes" when I know he really doesn't remember but doesn't want to be rude. "Do you remember..." only makes him remember that he can't remember. Thanks for this article.


almost 5 years ago, said...

I especially like the idea of visitors gently touching before speaking to our aunt. We have been caregivers for ten years and touching is so important. Our aunt, age 77, has mild dementia and numerous health issues but does not have Alzheimer's.Our aunt has no hearing problems and is a lovely, quiet-mannered person and speaks very quietly, also. it is rather annoying to all of us when someone new comes into our home and begins their introduction or starts asking questions with a loud voice. Also, nurses and staff in most hospitals assume our aunt has hearing problems and speaks loud to her instead of doing some research to find out if there are hearing problems beforehand. While I'm commenting I also find it very disrespectful for anyone to refer to our dear aunt as "she" instead of using her given name .. even in her own hospital room! This is the first time I'm commenting and am fairly new to Caring.com. I will be researching your great site about communication tips that would benefit our aunt. I apologize for being so long-winded.


about 5 years ago, said...

Yes, you're right, it's like telling a child what to do.


about 5 years ago, said...

Thanks, I need to remember that it is between my husband and his son. If his son wants to be in denial then so be it. I need to accept it, be aware that it will happen and deal with the consequences. Which is basically what caregivers do.


about 5 years ago, said...

ClancyD. This interaction is between father and son and you should make sure it stays that way. Most people (his son) that are in grief or distress about a love one sometime hate to let go. Thats good, because we do not want to let our loved one go to soon. Its good for both. I have had 15 years of this and many bumps (craters) in the road and am now near the end of our journey. Looking back I would not change a day. Most people early on do not take the time to learn about the disease. It is a facinating disease. With Alzheimer's some of the first thing that goes is short term memory. Chances are your husband will not even remember the son visit by the time the son gets home. So, let it go. However, if this is disturbing your husband or disrupting your HOME, KICK THE BUMB OUT. That memory lasts a whole lot longer. Please forgive me if I have intruded into your family matters.


about 5 years ago, said...

I wish I could get my husband's son to stop quizzing him about things. I guess he thinks it helps my husband if he tries to job his memory. But honestly, after a visit from his son I have to pick up the pieces. His son won't listen to me as he thinks he knows best. So, it would be nice to get the message out but frankly I am tired and have enough to do with coping with the situation.


about 5 years ago, said...

Thanks soo much


about 5 years ago, said...

Hi anonymous, Thanks for your question. If you'd like, you can post your question in our Ask & Answer section here: ( http://www.caring.com/ask ). Take care -- Emily | Community Manager


about 5 years ago, said...

This was very good and a better understand of the disease than most people have. Don't tell a caregiver, it may ruin their day, they might have to stop crying.


about 5 years ago, said...

Is there any way to deal with stubborness? It is vital at times someone must take directions?


over 5 years ago, said...

Realizing how important it is to treat the person with a gentle kindness, care and dignity. Also, to keep talking about actual daily experiences, etc., just in case they do hear and understand but are just unable to respond.


over 5 years ago, said...

This weekend we are attending a cousin reunion on Charles' side of family. He will be seeing cousins and their children. Some we haven't seen since they were children. He was the oldest of all of them. He's been very confused this week and has forgotten directions to places we go all the time. He continually asks me where we're going. He participates with me at the YMCA doing water aerobics. He does very few of the moves correctly, but I don't correct him or even try to help him as he becomes angry. We tease each other a lot and try to keep it light. I've explained it to the instructor and she is okay with him doing his own thing. He lost his rings and watch by not locking his locker. Trying to solve this problem. One ring and watch were returned, but he still doesn't protect himself.


over 5 years ago, said...

Not only is it good for visitors, but I needed the info as well. Even before AD my spouse had "selective hearing", so it is worse now, but to think first to lightly touch him before I speak is a great help. Thank you


over 5 years ago, said...

Tonight we have 3 couples coming over for dinner and conversation. My husband is mild to moderate, but has some problems keeping up with conversations. But he enjoys people and these are close friends. I hope we can continue to keep this dinner club for quite a long time yet. We have had it for years. As time passes I can really use the suggestions you have given.


over 5 years ago, said...

I have been told my sister that my grandmother is not talking that much anymore. she seam to sleep more but as i say these things its reminder me of the stage of a baby.....


over 5 years ago, said...

very helpful