Thursday, October 6, 2016

Visit or Visitation

We visit one another in our homes. We make a visitation at care facilities. There is something different between the two. On a scale of 10 to 1 we progress from fully alive, healthy, and happy to only a spent form.

When visitations occur in our homes they have house rules just as in care facilities. The first party is doing great, the second not so great, from one point of view. In reality, both may be doing great at their individual stage of life.

I have struggled nine months trying to bring the two views together without grief and tears. I got six invites emailed this week. What can visitors expect? What helpful results can come from visits to all three parties?

In the past 24 hours my wife has lived in a wide range of worlds. From only responding to a residential assistant (RA); to periods of agitated keepsake sorting; to going to bed on her own; to being lost, and for a moment not wanting to stay, until we returned to our apartment and she saw her keepsakes.

My older brother and his wife visit us each Sunday afternoon. We have worked out a system. We meet in the activity area. If my wife is fully engaged in something she may just wave back. If so, we sit at a table (at times with a puzzle she can help us with) until she comes to us or an RA selects the opportune moment to direct her to us. Please see the prior post on her three “no”s.

The greeting. This we learned from the Home Instead caregivers two years ago. Arms wide open, “M__ how are you. I am H__. I am so glad to see you again.” Then a big hug, and sometimes a kiss. This continues at Provision Living.

You and the items you bring are now her memory. Or you can review the yearbooks or the family reunion books with her that we have here.

We all have to eat. We can use the main dinning hall, or a memory care activity room table across from their dinning area (the unit is full). Breakfast is from 7:00 to 10:00 cooked to your choice or 8:00 to 9:00 in memory care.

The noon (11:30 to 1:00) and evening (4:30 to 7:00) meals are from menus. There is about a 15-minute wait for special items like a hamburger or BLT.

With the exception of a meal, be prepared for a visit from 15 minutes to an hour. On good days my wife can have a good time with one or two persons. Be prepared for the pauses she needs to respond.

I can tolerate visits by knowing she can live happily in her world. She does not have to “live up to former standards”. She can be who she is now and still enjoy sharing who she was then. Dementia is a disease, not an embarrassment.

You will be far ahead of the families who approach memory care with dread only to find their family member thriving in the following months.


  1. "Dementia is a disease, not an embarrassment." So true. 20-some years ago, my grandmother stopped recognizing most of the people in her life. But she was still able to enjoy life. Her personality was not greatly changed; she was friendly and loved chatting with people, even when she didn't quite know who they were.

    1. There is no question that my wife enjoys the company of other residents functioning at the same level. She shifts from helping in that world to the immediate present and back again. Guests sit at a table she can see until she comes, or a resident assissant redirects her, to the table. She can then have a good time in the activity area or in our apartment for 15-20 minutes at which time she may return to activities with her friends or to rearranging her keepsakes in our apartment.