How to Help Visitors Engage With Someone With Severe Dementia

Do friends and relatives avoid visiting your loved one because they have no idea what to say or do? Or do they stay away because seeing their loved one in an unresponsive state weirds them out? Try not to get upset by remembering this: They simply haven't encountered as much day-to-day Alzheimer's as you have. Chances are, you don't see some gradual changes because you're so close, whereas outsiders notice declines more sharply.

How to defuse the tension:

  • Help visitors understand what's up. Beforehand, give a quick update on what your loved one can or can't do, so guests know what to expect.

  • Set a positive example: Show that quiet conversation or simply sitting together holding hands can be enough. Assure guests that they don't need to work hard to entertain or adopt a false gaiety.

  • Assure your guests afterward that their presence was noted and appreciated, by both your loved one with dementia and by you.

Get advice on what to do when visiting just becomes too much.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

over 3 years, said...

We have generations of family members who do not communicate for various reasons....Usually they are not major issues just excuses for not sharing or giving precious time.....

about 4 years, said...

He doesn't have Alzheimer's he has Frontal Lobe Dementia and the only one of his children in town is a nurse and has been to Dementia Dialogues so she knows pretty well how to handle a visit. I think she is somewhat in denial about accepting his condition progressing. The other children live too far away to be able to come more than once a year. Friends: they may be put off by him not being able to respond to them.

about 5 years, said...

Dealing with family and friends it one of the most difficult things to cope with. I do think that if you're not living it you just don't get it. I communicate with Mom all the time, when this began, it was Englisn, when that broke down I bagan speaking Her first language which is Frech and now, most of it is a great language that has always been there for all of us, called body language and facial expressions Body language speaks volumes. We sit for hours, just holding hands and Mom putting her head on my shoulder.