Currently, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, and 1 out of 3 seniors in America will die from some sort of dementia. These numbers are staggering in and of themselves, but these are only a small fraction of the people whose lives are impacted by Alzheimer's and dementia. Caregivers, family members, spouses, friends, and neighbors of seniors suffering are all greatly affected. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you might worry about visiting them. Yes, your visits will be different than before, but many people in this condition love to have visitors. Here are a few guidelines to help you have a pleasant visit with your loved one:

Be Patient

Patience is essential when interacting with a person that is suffering with Alzheimer's. They may ask questions repeatedly or tell the exact same story again and again. It is important to remember that although you have heard the story about Aunt Betty at least 100 times, to them it is the first time they have shared it. Try to answer questions as though you have not answered them repeatedly, and respond to stories as if they are new to you.

Be Willing to Talk About the Past

Often seniors suffering with some sort of dementia will forget things like who they saw 5 minutes ago, but will remember intricate details of their childhood. When the present can feel so confusing to them engaging in conversations with you about things they do remember can be very liberating. It is ok to remind them of things currently happening, such as new births in the family, but do not expect them to remember. Do not argue with them. If they remember something different from what reality is, you will not convince them.

Ask One Question at a Time

Sometimes silence can seem awkward, so it is tempting to fill the space with idle chit chat and questions. This can be overwhelming and confusing to a person with dementia. Try to let conversation move slowly and only ask one question at a time. This gives the loved one time to process the question, think about it and respond without feeling rushed or becoming flustered. Be careful that while you slow down conversation, you do not talk down to them.

Respect Autonomy

Even though life looks vastly different for your loved one with Alzheimer's, they do still have a life. Try to give them space if they already have a visitor. According to the professionals of the Alpine Manor Home for Adults, who offer assisted living in Rochester NY, too much company at one time can be agitating. If there is a time of day that tends to be better for them, such as mid-morning, do your best to visit at this time to create a more fulfilling visit for everyone.

Try to Avoid Upsetting Conversations

If they continually ask about someone that is passed away, this can be very distressing. Keep in mind, every time you tell them that person is gone they are essentially hearing the news for the first time. Try to phrase your answers carefully to avoid upsetting them while still being honest. For example, if they ask about a long deceased relative Joe, you could say something like "I haven't seen Joe for a while."

Although visiting a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia can be emotionally draining, it is important. Even though it may be hard to tell, your loved one does appreciate it, so don't give up. Do what you can to make every visit pleasant and enjoyable for all.

Author's Bio: 

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer who loves to write for health, women's interests, and family issues. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters who are the inspiration for her writing.