Posted: April 23, 2021
Dementia affects the whole family. When one spouse lives with dementia, changes occur that require the other spouse to be flexible and adaptable. As dementia progresses, there may come a time when your spouse needs more help than is available at home or in an assisted living setting. Fortunately, there are high quality memory care communities that will provide your loved one with excellent care in an inviting, safe environment.
After your spouse has moved into a memory care environment, it can be a big adjustment for both of you. There may be a variety of reactions associated with the move such as guilt, grief, anxiety and often relief. These are all normal feelings, so it is healthy to acknowledge them during the adjustment process. There may also be questions about how often to visit your spouse, as the living situation is new for you as well.
Often, frequent visits are helpful. The familiar face of a loved one can provide comfort which may ease the transition. At first, frequent visits may be helpful as your spouse settles in, as they will provide something to look forward to. If, however, visits cause agitation or strong feelings of homesickness, fewer may be better during the adjustment period. Your spouse may need time to learn daily routines, meet new people and acclimate to a new environment. Though this may be hard on you, it may provide time to adjust and rediscover yourself outside of the caregiving role. In either scenario, a trained memory care staff member will have excellent insight to help guide your decisions.
Once things settle down, here are five tips for visiting your spouse in a memory care environment:
Establish the best days and time for visits. As your spouse settles in, your hope is that they will find things they enjoy about their new home. Sometimes, it may cause anger or frustration if a visit conflicts with a favorite activity or meal. Choosing the best days and times with respect to your spouse’s preferences will make the visit more satisfying and enjoyable.
Come by yourself or with one other person. Though it may be tempting to bring the whole family, this may cause your spouse to feel confused, agitated or unfocused. With one or two visitors, the time will be more peaceful and your spouse will get better, undivided attention.
Bring the photo album or something familiar. Great family snapshots or a familiar favorite song can provide a comforting sense of “home” in the new living space. Also, these can spark conversations that ease the awkward feeling of not knowing what to talk about.
Enjoy the silence. Your spouse may have harder time finding the right words as dementia progresses, so conversation may become challenging. Use quiet time to enjoy the physical presence of someone you love. If the weather is nice, take a walk or sit in a scenic area. Or, take a stroll around the community to experience the environment and meet other residents and staff members.
Expect memory slips. Be prepared for visits when your spouse might not recognize you or may forget basic memories. It may be tempting to say, “Do you know who I am?” or “Don’t you remember?” but try to avoid questions that might cause embarrassment or anger. Though it will be difficult, finding ways to connect positively will lead to higher quality visits.
Stay as positive as possible. Dementia is very hard to live with—both for you and your spouse. It is okay to acknowledge that. That being said, try to remain as positive (or neutral) with your spouse to avoid agitation. It is okay to cut the visit short if you need a break, and it is encouraged that you do your best to be present for their feelings of sadness, grief and frustration. Take care of yourself as well because you will need support. Find a caregivers group, or a friend or family member that will acknowledge and be present for your difficult times. You may feel that it is disrespectful to speak negatively about your spouse, but if you can be honest about the challenges and the feelings that come with the dementia journey, it will be better for your emotional health by helping you feel understood and supported.
At Sugar Fork Crossing, our memory care services are designed to engage your loved one on a personal level. Our Rhythms Dementia Program takes a holistic approach, as we believe that an enriching memory care environment can help your loved one experience personal growth and a more meaningful life. We understand that dementia is a family disease and strive to provide peace of mind and excellent communication as we partner with you on the dementia journey.