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A Visitor's Guide


 Whether it is a parent, and old friend or a spouse, visiting someone you love with dementia can be difficult. People don't know what to say or do. They feel uncertain and embarrassed. Some people just disappear all together. The following tips for making visits easier comes from Ryleysforum. I'm sure you'll find her advice helpful. Enjoy!

Anyone who has visited someone in hospital or in a long term care setting can relate to the initial stress of visiting!  I feel like somewhat of an expert when it comes to visiting! (Considering on my first visit the words that were exchanged were: "You can just turn around and walk right back out!"

Even now after I have visited all day I often return home to phone calls saying "Where are you? You said you were coming here today!" Needless to say memorable or not, we soon both couldn't get enough of each other. 

 Visiting can be very traditional. You visit, you bring gifts! Gifts ARE lovely. Here are some suggestions:

  • a treat, (usually just enough to eat during the visit) you don't want to invite a tummy ache, unwanted illness or creatures.
  • a short story, Readers Digest, The Sears Catalogue,
  • a calendar with great photos
  • Flowers or a plant
  • a  journal and pen
  • a puzzle
  • Dominoes 


You could be somewhat unconventional and start a real conversation by bringing:

  • a photograph or two ( ideally from the past)
  • a newspaper clipping (controversial, or interesting)
  • fun and pretty stick and peel wall decals
  •  some recipe cards (make it your goal to ask for advice)
  • hand lotion (Try it right then and there)
  • Large type words to favourite songs or poems
  • a memory box of relevant items from the past, to initiate conversation (something job or hobby related like a small tool, screws, etc. or baking tools, baseball glove and ball, gardening tools.)
  • Magnifying glass and small box of items to observe
  • a tea set (to enjoy a proper tea time together)
  • a Guest book, for visitors to sign, or use as a journal
  • a large print list of well known jingles or proverbs. (The rain in Spain...)
  • variety of cards with self addressed stamped envelopes. You could file them by the month that the event happens in.
  • nail polish, manicure set  or temporary hair color Hi lites (enjoy your own private spa day)
  • a pet ( most LTC centres have easily met regulations regarding  bringing your own dog)
  • a gift of scents. (Did you know smell has the strongest and most direct connection to memory.) Some scents that evoke memories are: Microwave popcorn, cinnamon bun, clean pillowcase, Old Spice aftershave, perfumed sachets, candied fruit, fresh baked ginger cookies, sawdust! Maybe build or paint a birdhouse together.
  • If you come empty handed do not worry. The gift shop on the premises offers snacks, drinks and note paper, even ice cream! 

 If all else fails, chances are you will find your first conversation starter right at the door to the room!  Some Long term care homes have a glass showcase just outside the resident's room that will give you visual cues as to the person's interest. Start up a conversation based on the items in that case.  Someday ask for the key and together re decorate the items in it. There are no rules about what goes inside it.


Next, enter the room and look around, be somewhat snoopy, look for visual cues of interest. A knitting project, a picture of cats, a forgotten cup of tea can cause you to think of things to say. If the room doesn't provide enough articles for conversation then consider leaving the room. A new conversation abounds with a change of scenery. 

IF all else fails bring a real conversation starter with you. Good ones are children, neighbours, and friends. The best by far is a stranger! My sister brought a stranger once and the gossip never ended! 


For more practical tips check out Alzheimer's Ideas That Help on Facebook, the link is https://www.facebook.com/Ryleysforum?ref=hl


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