Visiting - Seeing the Value & Overcoming Obstacles
“Why visit Grandma if she’s not going to remember anyway?” my daughter-in-law asked me. At the time, I hadn’t found many answers and probably mumbled it would help anyway. Mom loved watching their little children play.
Now I know research has shown while a person with dementia might not remember the reason for her joy after a visit, the emotional lift and well-being persisted through the day. So, if we can visit and bring joy and happiness to a loved one with dementia—it doesn’t matter if they are not going to remember to give us the credit.
There is value in visiting—but we might be afraid we won’t know how to act or what to say. Just relax. Try to see with her eyes and enjoy the challenge of rolling with whatever happens. If your loved one has slipped into her own world, try to join her in it. When I entered Sienna Crest to visit Mom, I would picture Alice in Wonderland as I opened the door. I reminded myself I was entering her world and prayed for guidance.
Another major obstacle is the offense of not being recognized or known. One woman shared she had visited her grandmother in a nursing home and had a wonderful visit. However, at the end, her grandma asked her who she was. Believing the visit had been a waste of time, she never visited her grandmother again. I did not know what to tell her—so stated this was a fairly common occurrence. At the time I did not understand why my mom would ask similar questions.
The brain is a marvelous supercomputer. Our loved ones with Alzheimer’s struggle to connect facts and data with events and daily life. However, their ability to perceive emotions and respond to them is enhanced.
With their emotional intelligence they know we are important to them, but they can’t recall our name or comprehend the family relationship. So, they reach out for help. Instead of being offended, let us be encouraged. Our visit was important enough for our loved one to ask who we are to her.
At end of many visits Mom would ask, “Did I marry? Did I have children?” I would hug her and say, “Yes, Mom. You married. You had four daughters and I am your daughter. You were a wonderful mother.” With relief in her eyes, she would say, “I thought so.”
So—visit, even if your loved one cannot recall your name. If she responds well to you and you feel led to visit, do so.
And don't forget Galatians 6:9--“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” ESV
1. Keep your eyes on Jesus. My favorite verse and first one I learned shortly after I became a Christian was Philippians 4:76-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ESV.
Worry runs in the family, but that is no excuse. Worry keeps us from focusing on Christ—the solution. It’s not easy, but it’s the first step. We have to trust God’s in control and will make a way for us, but we first have to be listening.
2. Be thankful—What? I thought in the beginning. That’s not being honest, but I am working on being thankful, even when bad things happen. It’s all part of the equation. We can be thankful in and for the Lord. Sometimes we can see a silver lining, but we can’t always expect to have things work out the way we wanted them to. In some of my greatest difficulties God showed up with the perfect solution—one I had never imagined or considered.
You can be thankful for the opportunity to walk the dementia journey with your loved one. For me, it was time with my mother even if she was different. While the mother I remembered did not come to live with us, she was still my mother. I had a chance to experience different facets of her personality, giving and receiving love in new ways.
3. Pray fervently. Supplications are deep stirring beseeching, begging prayers. God wants us to ask. We can’t hide it anyway. So ask and wait. (One of my other favorite passages is Psalm 37 – trust, delight, commit, rest and wait and He will give you the desires of your heart).
Some have found journaling their difficulties to the Lord very helpful. One woman discovered inspiration for pressing problems. With dementia it can seem we are living in an Alice in Wonderland existence where we have to enter into the world of our loved one to reach them. It can be exhausting, frustrating, but also challenging and sometimes funny. Check out Judy Towne-Jennings book, Living with Lewy Body Dementia.
So, don’t turn away from ‘crazy ideas’ that just might be the solution to help your loved one get through his day.
4. Ask for help. Find a support network—including people willing to listen to your daily ‘adventures.’ My husband patiently listened to my stories about Mom. Hearing that you are not alone, your loved one is not from Mars, but others are also going through exactly what you are experiencing sometimes is a huge help.
But refuse to load yourself with the burdens of bitterness or anger. If those who should help, do not, let them go. In the end, they will be the ones missing out.
5. Guard your own health. A burned out caregiver eventually will not be able to provide care. It’s not selfish to take time for yourself.
Remember. This is for a season and Jesus has overcome the world.
For more information - check out my book - Dementia Caregiving from a Biblical Perspective: Your Guide for the Journey available online at Amazon, ChristianBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.
Welcome to the blog page for Biblical Dementia Caregiving. It is a resource to come alongside as you walk the dementia journey with your loved one. My name is Dorothy Gable and I wish to help, encourage and share the lessons we learned caring for my mother with dementia. For more of my story, please see the About page in this website.