My 92 year old mother is in memory care in a very nice facility. My father passed away last June. The center is now opening up for once a week one-on-one visits that we schedule ahead of time. I made my first visit yesterday. The center has been sending me videos of her activities and updates regularly and I was happy to see how good she looked. Her hair was done, her nails were painted, and she looked well. I was thrilled that she recognized me as at our last "porch" visit where I sat outside on her birthday she didn't know who I was and got up and left. This time I was at a loss for conversation and how to redirect her repetitive questions. Her main question asked every couple of minutes are "where are my mom and dad?" Of course, they passed away over 35 years ago. When I gently reminded her of that she says "nobody told me, I didn't get to go to the funeral." Of course, she just doesn't remember, she was the one who made all the arrangements back in the day. I've been able to sidestep the question about where my father is, my stock answer is "he's on the golf course." My mother's physicians told me that it would be too upsetting and physically hard on her to constantly remind her he had passed. I would like some suggestions for my hour long visit, conversation topics, should I take a book for us to read together, cards, puzzles? Should I take some snacks? I get an hour with her a week now and I want to make it as enjoyable and relaxing for her as possible.
Don't tell your mother that her parents have died. She'll just get to relive that trauma each time she 'remembers' it. Tell her they're 'on the farm' or 'at the house' or whatever, it doesn't matter. Same thing like you're telling her about your dad. Keep the news light & fluffy and keep her happy and not agitated, that is the goal. If/when things get heated, leave. Let her know you love her and you'll talk to her 'later'. Even when I speak to my mother on the phone and she gets upset, I let her know that I'll be hanging up and I'll speak to her at another time. Last night, for instance, she was agitated and telling me how she wanted to throw herself out of her wheelchair & 'break both of her legs' so I felt it would be useless to continue that line of talk, for obvious reasons. When she gets like that, I'm not entertaining the behavior.
It really is a mess, ALL of this dementia. For them AND for us. Nobody wins and we ALL suffer. Try to minimize YOUR discomfort as well as hers. Keep the visits brief and as cheerful as possible. Try bringing some snacks, like you said.......food is the one thing my mother loves. Most times. Unless I bring her hot food which the 'stupid caregivers can never heat up properly and then I have to sit there like a boob while everyone else is eating, waiting for MY food.' So the hot food meals I've stopped bringing. Wing it. If it doesn't work, ditch it.
Good luck. It's not easy, that's for sure
It took me a while to realize that since the Invisible Husband was in reality her first high school boyfriend, my mother thinks she's about 16 years old now. She doesn't think that consistently, as she also knows I'm her daughter, but talking about her parents as though they're dead would be devastating to a 16-year-old girl, so of course I would never tell her they've been gone for fifty years.
I wouldn't try too hard to have planned activities and conversations with your mom. It takes some practice, but just let her reality lead the way and you can have satisfying visits. Just don't talk about anyone as being dead. My mother has lost multiple relatives since her dementia began, and there's absolutely no good purpose in telling her about them. (In fact, I kind of like the idea that they're still with us.)
And your suggestions for your hour long visits are right on the mark. Bring some picture books to page thru like one of flowers or babies or dogs. Snacks you can share are also good and how about family albums to do some reminiscing? Cards, unless they're picture cards, and puzzles might be too much but you can try. If you can load some songs of her generation on your phone, she might enjoy listening to them.
I personally had a hard time talking to my Mom. I was more comfortable talking to the other residents with Mom next to me. She seemed interested in what was being said but not talkative. If she did talk, and I answered she would give me a "what!" look. Why, because her brain had gone on to something else. My daughter though would just let her go and say "nice Mom Mom, oh yeah" She may tell her how her day was going just random things. When M came into the room Moms eyes would light up. When my daughter left, she would tell Mom she was going to work. She seemed to be OK with that. We never said we r going going home.
Juse say they are somewhere.
Musing is soothing. Play music that she use to like as a back ground as you talk and do an activity.
Bring a book to read, Games to play like cards, bingo, domino's or whatever she use to like.
She might like to try a paint by number picture.
Did she ever knit?
Bring pictures to look at.
Ask her to tell you a story about something in her life like how she met her husband, what she liked best in school, what she likes to eat, ect...make a big list of questions and things to talk about.
See if ya'll are allowed to go outside for a puc nic.
My 96 yr old Dad always enjoys a foot massage from me.
My Dad also enjoys me bringing him a treat like a shake or a doughnut.
It is very hard to hold a conversation. She says she doesn't have anything to say. She can't remember from 5 seconds to the next. So I do all the talking.
I am glad you asked your question. I can't wait till I am able to go in to see her. The answers were a big help to me.
"(and as my mother used to joke, she was actually telling the truth!)."
Very clever - lol!