Use a Prop to Make Dementia-Patient Visits Brighter

Visit with a dog

When kids are visiting someone with moderate-stage dementia, try supplying a "prop" to make the visit more pleasant for everyone. A prop gives both parties a focal point for attention and conversation. That can break tension or simply provide a starting point for conversation.

Great possibilities:

  • A toy (especially if it's something that might resonate with your loved one, such as a baby doll, tea set, toy tools, or a train set)

  • A picture book that one party can read to the other

  • A pet

  • A musical instrument that can be performed

  • An iPod or other gadget to introduce

  • A treat to eat -- even better if it harkens back to the past for the person with dementia, such as Girl Scout cookies or candy from a hometown confectioner's.

Of course, props don't just work with kids; any visitor can break the ice and create a warm visit this way.

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 2 years ago, said...

i give my mom a slate and pencil,pr book and pen and ask her to write something. she writes,draws but i can not understand what is written,pictures are okay.

about 4 years ago, said...

My Mother used to love having my 3 special needs dogs visit, and they would pile on her and wiggle and cuddle - always made her so happy. Dad, not so much. He prefers the dogs don't sit on his lap - he'll pet them if they sit next to him quietly, which is difficult to get deaf dachshunds to do, so I usually just take the alpha female with me - she is a bit more reserved than the other two. With Dad, I try to talk with him about what his day is like, and how the meals are at his facility. We also talk about the pictures in the electronic photo frame that is on in his apartment from 8am to 10pm. It rotates through about 4,000 photos taken from their photo albums. Lots of memories there!

about 4 years ago, said...

Before my brother- in- law took DH for a walk during our visit in Fairbanks, I briefed my BIL on what they can talk about - bicycles, tennis, family (they are brothers). But because BIL is the oldest and my DH the youngest with @ 10 years between them, there is slight older/younger barrier in their relationship even in their 78/68 years. The briefing worked out well from what I gathered, or maybe, they did not talk to each other also, which is OK!

over 4 years ago, said...

Props do work very well. Even better if it's something that they think is 'helping' you - folding towels, dish clothes, baby clothes, matching socks, etc. Makes them feel useful, even if they don't fold it or match them the way you would - you can always refold or re-match them when you get home. They can sort change, anything works - busy fingers help keep minds active.

about 5 years ago, said...

My Dad is now "mechanically" he does not know when he is full or hunger...and what ever we bring he eats until it is all we limit food visits..I do have a new 5 mth puppy I take her regularly , good for a walk out of the building and she is small and loves to be cuddled...great grandchildren visit often and bring cars and what not..this makes these visits much easier..Dad enjoy's playing with the kids...they have not yet got to the age where they can realize that Grand Dad Sam says the same things over and over again..but the 2 1/2 yr old will take him by the hand and tell him " Grandad Sam..this is the room you live in"...

almost 6 years ago, said...

I have use with my mother-in-law a toy [stuffed cat], a Bible with color pictures and a CD with old hymns, not only when a visit comes but during any trip over thirty minutes, which is her limit. Thanks for your help to others"¦ Bengie

about 6 years ago, said...

Just the idea to use a prop - helps to have something specific to talk about.