Consider smaller get togethers of 1-4 people at a time
Individuals with memory loss are often overwhelmed by large crowds. Often it is difficult if not impossible for them to interact with large numbers of people at the same time and they simply shut down and withdraw from the activity. We often see them sitting on the sidelines looking lost. When these feelings persist they often ask to leave shortly after have arrived.
Consider short visits of 30 minutes at a time
It takes a lot of energy for the person with memory loss to “stay in the moment”. They will get tired very quickly as they strain to understand and be a part of the conversation. Again, the unwanted result is often their insistence on leaving.
Be prepared with topics from their past for conversation starters
Conversations about current events often leave the person with memory loss “out of the loop”. Their short term memory loss makes it difficult if not impossible for them to understand and stay with a conversation that is focused on recent topics. Prepare prior to the visit by thinking of old stories or events from their past. Manage the conversation by bringing up a story that has potential meaning for them. If they remember the story they can join in. If they don’t remember the story, it was your story not theirs. The approach doesn’t frustrate them and allows them to maintain their dignity.
Refrain from the use of the words “No” and “Do you remember?”
Often the person with memory loss will offer information that isn’t accurate. Telling them “No, that isn’t right” or correcting them will only make them feel inadequate and frustrate everyone. Learning to go with the flow will make the conversation much more pleasant.
Saying “Do You Remember”, when they are challenged by memory loss, often increases their feelings of inadequacy. You can bring up the same topic with a simple “I was thinking..." followed by the topic you want to address allows them to join in if they remember and keeps the pressure to remember off of their shoulders.
The gift of a rewarding conversation is indeed priceless!