Does it Matter Whether You Visit a Loved One with Alzheimer’s?

 

Kathleen’s grandmother, Ruth, has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home. When she first moved in, Kathleen’s mother and her uncle would visit often, bringing Ruth her favorite foods, musical recordings, and photos to hang up in her room. As time progressed and Ruth’s condition worsened, the visits began to taper off. Now, no one is visiting Ruth.

Recently, it was Ruth’s 80th birthday, and Kathleen decided to surprise her. She could tell from seeing her and from talking to nurses at the facility that her grandmother was feeling lonely, depressed, and isolated. Since she lost her memory, Kathleen wondered how her grandmother realized that no one has visited her in quite a while. But Kathleen knows now that her grandmother does, in fact, realize, and that it is affecting her health and well-being. Kathleen told her mother and uncle that they need to start visiting Ruth again, because she truly needs them. They felt terrible, and when they began coming back, everyone started seeing positive changes in Ruth. 

Man with Alzheimer’s Tearful Plea Goes Viral 

In another instance, Alan “Beam” Beamer, a man with Alzheimer’s, discovered that it can be a lonely world when friends and family stop visiting. 

Beamer, 66, was an educator and athlete before being diagnosed two years ago, according to Global News. After family members and friends stopped coming to visit or would only visit briefly, because they were uncomfortable with Alan’s behavior, Beamer’s wife Mary Beth recorded her husband’s tearful plea for companionship and posted it on Facebook.

In the emotional video, Alan says he knows people are afraid of him now, but that he still loves them, and that he wishes they would come over and stay for awhile. He stresses that he’s the “same old person, and I wish all of my friends could come up and just talk to me the same way they did before.”

Mary Beth also pleads with family and friends, saying on camera that, “You may not feel comfortable coming to see Alan, and it may break your heart, but if you truly loved him, and loved us, you could take a few minutes out of your day … to come see him.” While the message was designed for family and friends, the Facebook post quickly went viral. The video has been viewed over 660,000 times, and the couple says they’ve received 8,000 Facebook friend requests from all over the world.

The video also has prompted some friends and family members to visit.

Visiting loved ones with Alzheimer’s does benefit them even if they no longer recognize you.

According to research carried out by Alzheimer’s Society, loved ones with Alzheimer’s benefit from family and friends visiting, because Alzheimer’s sufferers still have an “emotional memory.” In other words, when it comes to visiting loved ones with Alzheimer’s, the positive emotion from an encouraging and supportive visit can endure much longer than the specific memory of that visit.

As part of their research, the Alzheimer’s society polled members of the public who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s. The findings revealed that 42% ‘mistakenly’ felt that once a loved one stopped remembering them ‘they don’t benefit a lot from spending time with them’. Some 68% responded they would still keep up visits, but the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘Despite these good intentions, the lack of awareness of how important emotional memory is may mean that in their busy lives, people don’t always follow up on their intentions and over half of those living with Alzheimer’s are left feeling isolated.’ 

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: “It’s so important for people with Alzheimer’s to feel connected throughout the year. Spending time with loved ones and taking part in meaningful activities can have a powerful and positive impact, even if they don’t remember the event itself. We’re urging people to get in touch with us and find out how we can help you stay connected.”

When you visit a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you may have impacted that person’s whole day by changing her feelings and behavior. Although he or she might not be able to recall that you visited him or her, the feelings you created in your loved one can change how he or she interacts with others and improve his or her mood.

So, next time you think it doesn’t matter, think again. The benefit of your visit might last long after you’ve gone.

Tips for Visiting Someone with Alzheimer’s 

Hopefully this article has inspired you to visit your friend or loved one who has Alzheimer’s. When you do, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Be respectful: Don’t talk down to your loved one or treat him or her like a child. He or she has had many life experiences, so in the midst of his or her confusion, make sure you show respect.

Minimize distractions: You’re more likely to have a clear conversation with your loved one if there are fewer distractions occurring around you.

Bring some pictures to your visit: If you have some pictures from years past, bring them along on your visit. Seeing photos from long ago can trigger memories that are stored in the long term memory bank. Sometimes, people are able to recall specific names and events just by seeing a picture. Even if the response you receive seems minimal, many individuals are reassured by seeing pictures that may be familiar to them, and paging though an album can provide a guide for your conversation.

Sing: Consider singing with your loved one, especially if he or she has always enjoyed music. Music has the potential to stir memories and emotions, sometimes resulting in a person reciting all of the words to a song even when their ability to communicate has declined.

Don’t argue: Arguing with someone who has Alzheimer’s is rarely, if ever, beneficial. Even if he or she is completely wrong about something, you will accomplish very little by disagreeing with him or her.

Medicaid Asset Protection 

Persons with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones. We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance. If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia, please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for an initial no-cost consultation:

Fairfax Alzheimer’s Planning: 703-691-1888 
Fredericksburg Alzheimer’s Planning: 540-479-1435 
Rockville Alzheimer’s Planning: 301-519-8041 
DC Alzheimer’s Planning: 202-587-2797

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