If you don’t prepare for your visit, it can be frustrating and even heartbreaking. Your loved one may not recognize you and they may talk very little. It would be easy to think that a visit is not very helpful. However, visitors do make a difference.
As the disorder progresses, the goal of the visit must also change. You may no longer be able to connect with your loved one as someone that they remember. However, you can still connect with them as someone who cares.
- Come prepared with supplies that might help with the interaction:
- A family photo album is usually a hit. The past always easier to remember!
- Gifts that provide comfort via the senses will be appreciated long after other gifts loose their attraction. Examples might be some flowers from your garden, a DVD with soft music, a favorite perfume or aftershave, unusual textures such as a soft afghan or a smooth, cool stone. Bring a scented sachet but avoid candles. The open flame could be dangerous.
- Bring a favorite food or drink not usually available in an assisted living setting. My mom loved oyster stew. I'd get a to-go cup from a restaurant that we used to go and bring it to her. Someone else might crave Fritos or chocolate covered cherries.
Plan your visit for a time when your loved one is most likely to be clean and comfortable. Check with the facility or caregiver to find out what time is best.
Pain can appear as negative behavior—aggression or withdrawal, for instance. It will also increase LBD symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. If you notice such changes, ask the caregiver or staff about pain management. Be aware that for the person with LBD, pain management is often difficult because the drugs that fix the pain may make the LBD symptoms worse.
- Often the best gift you can give are things you can do with your loved one:
- Hold their hands, put your arm around them or give them a back rub. A person doesn’t have to recognize you to appreciate these caring and nurturing activities.
- Offer to brush their hair or apply lotion to their skin while you visit. These have a soothing affect.
- Try wrapping their hands or feet in a hot, wet towel for a very soothing and relaxing “spa treatment.”
- Open a window to feel a breeze, or better yet, take your loved one for a walk outside. This is especially welcome if they don’t get out much. I used to push my mother in her wheelchair around the block. It was a wonderful change of scenery for her.
Be careful of the way you talk. Talking down will increase agitation. Just chat away. Don’t worry about if they know who or what you are talking about. But do remember to talk slowly. Processing times for your loved one are very slow. Allow pauses between sentences. This may seem awkward for you but it will flow much better for your loved one. You will notice that after talking this way for a while that you become more relaxed as well.
For more information read A Caregiver’s Guide to Lewy Body Dementia, available at Amazon.com. Order it through our website, LBDtools.com and help us spread the word about this disorder.