Visiting Mom or Dad in assisted living or a memory care can be hard. Perhaps you take a treat to share – a favorite dessert or snack food. Maybe you bring a little present. Or maybe you don’t know what to bring, or if a gift is even allowed. You wonder if you will be recognized this time or if you will be called by someone else’s name. Sometimes a visit is gut-wrenching because dementia has stolen so much of your loved one.
I spend a lot of time in memory care units visiting with people living with dementia. I don’t have the emotional family connections to my clients that their families do, both a blessing and a curse. My hope is to help all my clients and their families cope with their feelings of loss, anger, numbness, and anxiety caused by dementia. It is a Must Do that we meet our loved ones where they are in their disease progression. When family members sit with this thought for awhile before visiting it can re-frame expectations.
Here are a few of my favorite conversation starters. These ideas work for me when visiting a memory care resident because I’m genuinely enthusiastic about the topics. From infants to elders, people pick up on how authentic someone is. Maybe my suggestions will work for you or, at least, these ideas might spark your own.
- Babies (humans, puppies, kittens, bunnies, etc.)
- Jewelry that tells a story (unique, family heirloom, charm bracelets, items that can be offered to mom to try on)
- Recipes (old family favorites, your most recent diet, new ones you pinned from Pinterest)
- Music (quit talking, start singing)
- Love stories (who in your life is falling in or out of love, daily life with your partner, Hollywood romances old and new)
Remember, real conversation (not idle chit chat) comes from a place of sincerity. The desire to share a story comes across in the telling of it. In a conversation, everyone has a purpose: to talk, to listen, to engage, to connect.