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