As your parent’s Alzheimer’s symptoms progress, you may be holding on to memories of long talks at the kitchen table. But it may feel like this disease, which makes up to 80% of dementia diagnoses, is trying to rob you of that. It does not have to feel this way. When you visit your parent in a specialized care or assisted living facility, there are ways that you can make your conversations more meaningful.
Focus on one-on-one time
Conversing in large groups can be overwhelming for those with Alzheimer’s, so try to keep your interactions as calm as possible. An afternoon spent sitting with a cup of tea can be meaningful and emotionally healing for your parent, so prioritize conversations like this. When they feel at ease, they will be more likely to open up.
Base the conversation on their reality
Even if your loved one’s awareness is not fully on reality, it’s essential that you be empathetic to this. If you constantly invalidate their understanding of the present moment, they will only get discouraged. As long as their reality is not harmful to themselves and others, there is no harm in supporting their perspective.
Try to avoid strong expectations for the conversation and go with the flow. Remember that a little patience goes a long way when speaking with your parent, and they will feel more comfortable with you as a result. If you see any potentially dangerous red flags, communicate this to the memory care facility. Otherwise, accept the present for what it is.
When in doubt, be present
Speaking of the present, it’s best to stay there. Notice what feels right in the moment. Embrace silence rather than forcing conversation, or feel free to sit and tell them stories. In many cases, it’s the quality time that matters rather than the content of the conversation.
By keeping your conversation sweet and simple, and letting empathy drive your decisions, your interactions can be more meaningful to you and your parent. As their condition and specialized care changes, you might have to adjust the way you interact with them. But as long as you do so out of love, you can retain a strong bond.