I was visiting with a friend today. It turns out that his dad has dementia, and he was grieving about a very painful part of reality called loneliness when it comes to folks afflicted with this condition. Not only is it “The long goodbye”, but too often it also a “Journey of lonesomeness”.
Unfortunately, their forgetfulness tends to cause friends and family to forget about them. Not in the cold, unfeeling or hateful way. No! Rather in more of the “I don’t know what to say” way, or the “Why go? They won’t even know I’m there” way, or the “It’s too sad or depressing to see them in that situation” way.
My heartbroken friend went on to say that it didn’t seem to matter what his father had achieved or accomplished, who he’d helped or the man he was, once dementia crept in and took over everything changed. Colleagues, friends, and even family began to avoid him.
He’s not the only one who has mentioned it. It seems to be a common complaint among caregivers. At times, those who care for others begin to feel that they alone are shouldering the burden of care. Why is that?
I believe it’s because folks might feel unqualified, uncertain or afraid they might say the wrong thing. People honestly don’t know what to say. Or if their person is suffering from dementia, they won’t remember the visit. And, it can be a sad thing to see someone who was once vibrant and full of life to become frail and feeble.
Perhaps what is needed is a bit of coaching ahead of time to help folks know all that’s really needed is a smile, a touch, and a kind voice.
It really doesn’t matter what you say. Simply entering the room with a smile and taking their hand can create a connection. As far as what to say, try reciting scripture, reading poetry or the newspaper. Perhaps picking up a novel you were interested in and reading a few chapters each visit. Sing a few songs or use youtube.com on your phone/tablet to play some songs from when they were younger.
If eating is allowed, bring a special treat (definitely check with the caregiver first). Allow your person to live in the past if that is where they are. A story listened to even if it’s repeated over and over can be considered conversation.
Yes, it can be depressing to see someone in that setting, but perhaps your visit can bring a bit of joy and create a connection that may just improve the quality of life for both of you.
Please share any other helpful tools and tips can be offered to those who have found themselves avoiding visits.