There are traditional holidays and important dates around which you likely go to visit your loved ones. You may have hesitated to do so when you learn of a person’s health difficulties, especially if it’s dementia or mental illness. It’s natural to not know how to act, what to say, how long to visit: but the key is just to be present. To go, and be there.
Keep an eye on the primary caregiver when you go. Their health and well-being may be suffering greatly, but they may not convey this. Try your best to avoid making any more work by your visit, and do whatever you can to help those you visit, so there’s less to be done than when you arrive. This may give you more opportunities to “step up.” Try to contribute meaningfully, in ways that are easy to do, but will make a huge difference.
Accept things as they are at the moment
Adjust your expectations as well, especially about your loved one. Practice mindfulness and focus on your breathing if the situation is challenging, or if you’re anxious before you go in. Simple things like this, which only take a moment, can transform your visit.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies typically fluctuates, sometimes drastically. This means you may find a person who seems completely normal, or instead, seems in very bad shape indeed. However, their “norm” may be the opposite, or neither. Accept things as they are, and act appropriately. It’s easier than you likely think.
Visits, and any change from routine can be very upsetting to a person with cognitive difficulties. So even if the visit is going very well, it may be exhausting for your loved one. The exhaustion may not show itself until after you’ve left. Shorter visits, with the fewest number of people, and the least commotion are likely best.
You not have seen their loved one for some time, and it’s worth being ready. Go with confidence, and have a meaningful visit. The benefits can be monumental. The key thing is to accept them as they are, right now: things may be a little, or vastly, different than you expect. But there is no reason not to visit. Summon any courage you need, do the right thing, and make a difference in their life.
Finally, as the video below suggests, keep an eye on any carers involved: they may need your help too, perhaps even more.
Strength to all! Timothy Hudson