Talking Point members’ advice on seeing someone with dementia in person for the first time in months.
‘Don’t worry if the person doesn’t seem to know who you are – just be aware that the emotional tie is still likely to be there and the feeling of “closeness” is likely to be intact.
‘Just a few weeks ago, my wife looked at me and asked, “Who are you?” The important thing was that she wasn’t afraid and readily accepted my answer.
‘This afternoon we were driving home from the day centre and my wife later told me that at that time she didn’t know who I was, but thought that I was a nice man (thank goodness for the last part of that!)’
‘Seeing them will no doubt be an emotional moment for you. It might be for them as well, or perhaps the illness has advanced too far for that to be the case.
‘Perhaps they no longer show emotion, or in their memory they saw you last week not many months ago, so why would it be emotional for them? Expect the unexpected.
‘Perhaps another member of the family who cares for them daily has tried to keep you up to date with how their illness is progressing.
‘When you meet them and all the gradual changes are seen in one go then accept what presents to you.
‘A carer does not need judgement because their reports were not “accurate” enough, perhaps sparing you pain or just living day to day with the loved one they adjust without realising. That carer has been through a lot, supporting the shared love one.’
‘If the visit or “contact” is short, that is not a sign of failure. My mother dispatches people with unseemly haste. The point is, though, that she is happy!
‘I think we can at times, hope love can cut through dementia. It can’t sadly, however large the love was at one time.
‘If you think they may not recognise you, then try calling out an upbeat greeting before they see your face. Speech takes a different pathway through the brain.
‘If things go badly remember that dementia can be tidal through the day. So, if you had seen them at 8.35am, the visit may have been very different!’
‘I think that it is better to treat the person as if you have just met them and take your lead from them. Don’t try to remind them of things from their past as it will only confuse them. If you are lucky they will remember you but if not just enjoy the day.’
‘Don’t mention other family members if they’re not sure who you are, keep it simple. Try to chat about a really happy memory from the past or a pet – my mum forgets humans, but never ever forgets our pets!
‘If you’re one of the lucky ones and get chance to hug, enjoy every single wonderful second.’
What advice do you have for people with dementia and carers about coping with colder weather?
Let us know by 4 January 2021 so we can share it in our next magazine.