Piscataway, N.J. (Dec. 10, 2018) – Rutgers expert Mary Catherine Lundquist, program director of Care2Caregivers, a peer counseling helpline (800-424-2494) for caregivers of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease operated by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, is available to discuss how families can compassionately manage holiday visits, prepare family members for changes in their loved ones, and reduce stress.
- When visiting someone with memory loss, whether in their home or in a nursing home, bring entertainment: snacks, coloring books, crafts, photographs, memorabilia. “There are so many ways we can connect with each other even when a person can no longer talk or remember a shared history. Music – especially singing songs together – is a wonderful way to share an experience. Although people lose the ability to converse, their ability to sing is preserved in a beautiful way,” Lundquist said.
- Tactile projects, such as coloring or making cookies, are other ways to enjoy time together. Engage loved ones in ways that match their abilities, such as holding a bowl or rolling dough. “It’s even meaningful if they simply sit at the table while others perform the tasks. You also can look at holiday cards together and use the visuals to make small talk,” she says.
- People with dementia may lose their ability to have a conversation. Guests and caregivers can converse, but should make the loved one feel included even if they don’t respond. “Don’t shy away from reminiscing as that can be a comfort to the caregiver. However, refrain from asking the loved one ‘Do you remember?’ or expecting them to give you details from the past. It’s also good to remind the loved one of your name and your relationship to them from time to time.”
- Enter the room slowly and offer your hand to a person with memory loss respectfully. “Wait for the loved one to take it and respect them if they do not. Introduce yourself by name and relationship. Never ask ‘Do you know who I am?’ If you want to hug them, lean in slowly and read their cues. If they get tense or back up, they are not comfortable. Realize that people who never wanted to be touched may suddenly be interested in holding your hand all the time – and vice versa. Read their cues and be open.”
Lundquist can be reached at 800-424-2494 or [email protected].
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