How Often Should You Visit an Aging Parent in Memory Care?

Two younger women kissing an older woman on the cheek

Not surprisingly, adult children with aging parents in memory care frequently have anxiety and questions about visiting their loved ones. Common concerns include: Will mom/dad even know who I am? What should I say? Do my visits have any value? How often should I visit mom/dad in memory care?

This type of apprehension is understandable say memory care experts and is typically the result of a lack of information about how the parent will respond. Memory care specialists add that these fears should not become an obstacle to visiting the loved one because visits from family and friends can be highly beneficial.

5 Ways Visits Benefit Loved Ones in Memory Care

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, memory care research shows that even though a person with dementia may no longer recognize a loved one, their time together has a lasting, positive impact. They list 5 reasons to continue visiting your loved one with dementia, even after it seems their dementia is too advanced to benefit from time together.

  1. They may recognize you even if they cannot express it.
  2. Even if they are unable to remember your relationship, they may remember how often you visit.
  3. They may enjoy visits even if they cannot remember your name or your relationship to them.
  4. Opportunities to socialize and visits can put your loved one in a better mood and help them relax.
  5. People with Alzheimer’s still have emotional memory, remembering how an event has made them feel after forgetting the details of the event.

 “In general, memory care specialists agree that visits from family and friends can be very helpful to a parent in memory care by improving their emotional state, their sense of belonging and their self-esteem,” says Susan Irrgang, RN, LNHA, Executive Director at Saunders House in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

“How often you should visit your parent in memory care is a more complex question that has many variables including your proximity to the memory care community, your work schedule and other factors. However, the good news is that memory care authorities have provided guidance on this issue that can help you to create your own visitation plan.

Tips for Scheduling Visits With Your Loved One in Memory Care 

Visit frequently during the first few weeks – The Family Caregiver Alliancearticle, “Residential Care Options: Visiting Someone in Dementia Caresuggests that during the first two weeks, you should visit often and stay as long as you want.

Likewise, author, speaker, columnist and eldercare consultant, Carol Bradley Bursack states,My opinion is to be with your parent as much as possible while they are making the adjustment to life in the nursing home.” 

Dr. Rita A. Jablonski-Jaudon, a leading authority on memory care and family caregivers, adds, “The answer depends on the physical and mental condition of both parties. Some caregivers are so worn out by the time placement occurs that they can only visit one or two times a week. The location of the facility from the caregiver can also affect visiting schedules. Optimally, daily visits are good because it allows the family to see how the individual is adjusting to the new surroundings, and if the new facility is responsive to the needs of the individual. I pay more attention to the quality of the visits than the quantity of the visits.”

Later, you can reduce your visitation frequency while identifying the best times to visit  After a few weeks or so, you can begin to reduce the frequency of your visits if you desire. For example, visit every other day instead of every day. Eventually, you can visit every third day.

According to memory care experts, loved one’s with dementia respond more favorably when they have a predictable routine. Therefore, try to arrange your visiting times so you create a regular schedule that your loved one can depend on. Ideally, your visits would occur during a time of day when your loved one is most receptive to visitors. 

Don’t fret if something comes up and you can’t make one of your planned visits. Things happen in life that are beyond our control. Instead, try a phone call. You can ask a staff member how your parent is doing and also spend some time on the phone with your loved one. 

Most of all, make your visits pleasant and productive   The article, Your Memory Care Guide to Making Visits Meaningful with Someone with Alzheimer’s provides many useful memory care tips for making your visiting time as pleasant and helpful as possible. Some examples include:

  • Introducing yourself and calling the person by name before every verbal interaction with them
  • Maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation to show you are listening 
  • Using touch and loving expressions to show how much you care
  • Mentioning their previous interests and hobbies and bringing items from the past such as family photo albums that will stimulate happy memories
  • Try not to say “goodbye” at the end of your visit. Memory care experts say it is better not to draw attention to the fact that you are leaving. Instead, say, “I love you.” Look for a naturally occurring break such as lunch, dinner or bath time so your parent will be attended to when you leave. 

Susan adds, “Having an aging parent in memory care can be a challenging time for busy families today. Do your best to visit your loved one as often as you can. And when you cannot, you can take comfort in knowing that our Care Traditions memory care program provides them with the respect, support and life enrichment activities they need for an improved quality of life. Here, families are always welcome and we invite you to continue to be an important part of your loved one’s life.”

We also encourage you to stay current on other senior health and care topics by viewing the latest articles on our website.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on “How Often Should You Visit an Aging Parent in Memory Care?,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, restorative care, memory care, respite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at 610.658.5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.

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