If you have a loved one who has dementia living in a care home and they don’t remember your visits, you may wonder if there’s any point at all in going to see them, especially if you find visiting them distressing. After all, if they don’t remember you being there and conversation is thin on the ground during your visit anyway, should you even bother to see them in the first place? The answer is yes. Alzheimer’s Society has recently said that a person with dementia can feel happier when they receive a visit from a relative, even if they don’t recognise them or remember them being there afterwards. Yet many people don’t realise this. A recent survey revealed that 40 per cent of people felt there was ‘little point’ in going to see a loved one with dementia if the person no longer remembered who they were.

An Alzheimer’s Society spokesperson explained that the people living with dementia have an emotional memory. This means your visit could make the person feel happier, comforted and more secure, even if it’s gone from their memory shortly afterwards.

Go along and visit your loved one. Even if you can’t speak to them much, or they don’t seem to understand what you are saying, your visit will make a difference. They will be happier afterwards.

When you visit the person, here’s how to make sure you get the most from the time you spend together and get along…

  • Don’t take nasty comments personally. A person with dementia may have lost the ability to edit what they say and judge whether it’s appropriate to tell you they don’t like your clothes, shoes or hairstyle! Remember it’s the condition talking, not the person.
  • Know when to back off. If the person seems to be getting agitated by you, then step away and give them some space if it’s safe to do so. Good care is not just about caring about the person. It’s also about the relationship you have with that person.
  • Don’t always make it about the care you provide. Make time to do enjoyable activities or pursuits together, so your time together isn’t always about washing, dressing and feeding.
  • Don’t let situations escalate. If the person is being rude or saying unpleasant things, don’t respond and allow situations to escalate.
  • If the person is affected by sundowning (a change in mood when it gets dark), then give them space at that time, or try to distract them with something they enjoy. They may simply be tired, or they may be restless, so anything you can do at the home to stimulate them may help. A short walk around the grounds of the care home may be a good idea if they have the energy.