How to Say Goodbye When Visiting Someone With Dementia

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Goodbyes have never been known to be an easy thing. But just like many other daily challenges for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s (or another form of dementia), saying goodbye to your loved one after visiting them in their memory care unit or other senior care facility is no simple task. Because of their cognitive impairment, your loved one may perceive that you are abandoning them or leaving them for good, even when it’s just a temporary goodbye.

Here are some strategies families and friends can use to make departing after a visit easier.

Use the senses

Sometimes, comforting a loved one through a gentle pat on the back, a hug, or a stroke of the arm can help the goodbye process. Using nonverbal cues and touch to communicate with your loved one can be especially helpful during the later stages of Alzheimer’s.

Don’t be obvious you’re leaving

Sometimes it can help your loved one feel better if you don’t make the goodbye process such an official event. If another visitor or staff caretaker is arriving, caregivers can utilize the distraction to give their loved ones a casual and quick goodbye. This can also potentially reduce feelings of abandonment, because you’re not leaving your loved one alone. Leaving your loved one with a staff caretaker at a regularly scheduled activity (such as a meal or a routine bath time) can make the departure easier for the same reason.

Also, try to avoid strong visual cues that you’re leaving, like putting on your purse or zipping up your coat in front of them. It can help to leave these things by the door or in another room so that your loved one isn’t as aware of the goodbye.

Remember that they’re being cared for

The care staff in your loved one’s memory care unit is there to watch over him or her. Even if saying goodbye is a difficult experience for your loved one to process, it can help you feel better knowing your loved one is in a safe environment even after you go. Be sure to alert the staff of any special concerns you have.

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