When I visit my Alzheimer's-suffering wife at the nursing home, she gets very upset as I leave; Is there anything I can do?

Bobcie asked...

When I visit my Alzheimer's-suffering wife at the nursing home she is delighted to see me, but she begs me to take her with me when I leave, which is not a practical request. She shouts, "Bob, come back; take me with you," as I walk away. It's miserable for both of us. Any suggestions?

Expert Answer

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

This must be so heart-breaking for you. Even though you recognize this placement as being the most appropriate caregiving solution, I'm sure you must be devastated at each visit when you hear her plea to leave with you. The difference between your emotional pain and that of your wife is that it remains with you for a long time after your visit while it is most likely forgotten by her shortly after you are out of sight. I suggest the following possible ways to make your separating more comfortable for each of you: 1. Try to always have your departure time when a scheduled activity or meal is about to take place. Folks with Alzheimer's (AD) generally focus on one occurence at a time and if your wife is joining in a group with others or preparing for a meal, her focus is not on you leaving but rather on the new activity. 2. Speak with the staff and request an aide to assist with the transition from your visit to the new activity. 3. Do NOT let your body-language or non-verbal language transmit your dismay. Leave quickly, gently, and smilingly! Remember that AD folks are quite adept at taking cues from our non-verbal responses and read our tone of voice, facial expressions, and emotions. No matter how contrived it may be, be as positive as possible as you change companions with the staff member. If you check back with the staff shortly after you leave, you will most likely discover that she has transitioned quite well and you will find that, without the stress of a tearful departure, your visits will be more enjoyable. I hope these suggestions work well for you and do remember to take care of YOU!