How to Spend Quality Time With Someone Who Has Advanced Dementia

Some days, are you feeling plumb out of one-way conversation material? Many caregivers report this curious feeling, when you're glad to be there at an uncommunicative loved one's side yet are at a loss for words after many days like this. Know that you don't need to fill up the silence with empty chatter.

Try these wonderful ways to spend quality time with a loved one who has advanced dementia:

  • Simply sit in companionable silence, holding hands. Let the language of touch do the talking for you. If your loved one would like it, gently stroke a scented lotion into his or her hand while you sit.

  • Start humming. The tune doesn't really matter (old hymns, holiday tunes, Beatles hits, nursery songs, or "Happy Birthday" all work). You'll set a comforting tone and will feel more relaxed.

  • Talk not about everyday odds and ends but about your life narrative. Weave the story of your lives together, starting at the beginning. It's like storytelling, but the characters, details, and plot aren't made up; they're true. This can be deeply satisfying to both talker and listener, whether you perceive a response or not.


over 2 years ago, said...

This article is helpful. I often wonder about how to pass time besides having the television on. I usually do hold his hand. Humming sounds kind of nice. I sometimes do that for myself. My mom always hummed or sang a song (sometimes making up the words because she didn't know them all) as she went about her daily chores.


over 3 years ago, said...

very good info...... thank you Paula


over 3 years ago, said...

It helps to know that I'm doing something that is suggested by your site - it is reassuring to me.


over 3 years ago, said...

My Mother has been in a nursing home, since I had to place her there in August 2012. I was no longer able to care for her, due to her multiple disabilities, and my own physcical disability, and depression. Watching her, my best friend/Mom, deterioriate, has been one of the most difficult times in my life!!I I go and sit with her every night, and usually it is pretty quiet! Thank you for the ideas!!! go and sit with her every night for a few hours, and bring her her favorite drink, Unfortunately, Mom doesn't talk much, and seeing her makes me cry. So I plan on trying your sugesstions, and hopefully something I say, will help her understand, how VERY MUCH I love her, and how I will miss her when she


over 3 years ago, said...

My husband recently went into a Nursing Home after take care of him for the last few years. Each day I visit for 2-4 hours. Today we (I) talked about a trip we made about 20 years ago. He sat next to me, held my hand and was content. I also talk about adventures we had with the kids. Anything to keep him happy. I also read a devotional to him daily.


about 4 years ago, said...

Thank you , its good to know that others have the same problems, I talk to my wife all the time, telling her all whats going on with our grown up children and grandchildren. I feel she understands more than she is able to communicate back to me but occasionly she will say something that tells me shes listning. I occasionly get the odd smile and occasionly she will tell me she loves me, that makes the careing all worth while. One of the things I miss most of all is having a good conversation with her but I know that has now gone for good, its hard but I would not swop the 43 years great years we have had togeather and thank the Lord for that. Mike K


over 4 years ago, said...

I sing songs with my Mom - old familiar tunes - and I soon she starts singing too. Amazingly, she sometimes starts leading and comes up with lines I don't remember. I can even get her to do motions with "Balling the Jack". Her long-term memory still works occasionally.


over 4 years ago, said...

My mother enjoys the short stories from magazines that I read to her.


almost 5 years ago, said...

Yes these are great my mom holds onto my hand really tight our Love is being past back and forth to each other!!!!!


about 5 years ago, said...

100 yr old mother in assisted living can no longer use hearing aids and is near completely deaf. Doesn't talk to either my wife or I when we visit. Very depressing.


about 5 years ago, said...

It happened also to me so I tried to find alternatives. I summarised what I did for a long time (now my mother cannot do anymore many of these activities) in a PDF which is now part of a set of advices to relatives of frail elderly. http://www.elsacare.eu/images/elsacare/products/it/en012it.pdf I hope this may be of help.


about 5 years ago, said...

I try to do all of those things. It makes me feel better anyway!


about 5 years ago, said...

In our fast-paced world, we feel we have to always be DOING something...these three tips encourage us to just BE with someone.


about 5 years ago, said...

Good suggestions, especially humming. Never thought of that!


over 5 years ago, said...

I do the 3rd tip when washing & exercising my Mom. I "update" her on the lives of other family members with info I get from Facebook! She loves it. I can tell that she recognizes names with eyebrow raises, head nods & smiles! ("You know Steven. Your Grandson, my nephew; Your son Ron's boy.") I know she feels more connected to the family and less isolated that way. She was always an active participant in the family, and this disease has put her on the sidelines. She is all but bed-ridden at this point, with loss of most motor skills. My "stories" have closed the gap for her, allowing her to feel more a part of things!