Visiting Someone with Dementia

Visiting Someone With Dementia (Leaflet by retired Dr. Jennifer Bute)

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Suggestions for visiting a person with dementia

 Dementia covers a group of symptoms such as memory problems; decreasing ability to think or reason, difficulty in communicating; and not recognising people or places.

People with dementia can become confused and upset.

They may see, smell or hear things no-one else does, or be Time Travelling, thinking they are living in an earlier decade, so be confused at what they see around them.

Their behaviour can be unusual or awkward. They may find it hard to express themselves or understand others.

It is important to remember that a person with dementia is exactly the same person inside as they used to be, but as they find communication difficult, others need to make adjustments in how they communicate with them.

Their condition makes it difficult or impossible to store new factual information, although they experience and remember feelings in the normal way. Feelings always remain, as does spiritual awareness.

Visiting a person with dementia can encourage feelings of self-worth in them and bring comfort and happiness.


Feelings remain when Facts are Forgotten

 Please avoid asking direct questions, even questions such as “Have you seen Ann recently?” or “What did you have for lunch?” Anything requiring a factual answer has the potential to be confusing or distressing. It is amazing what you can find out without asking questions.  Instead of ‘Would you like tea or coffee?” perhaps “Let’’s have a cup of tea now.”


Before you visit:

  • Find out from the family the person’s favourite topics to help you if conversation is not easy.
  • Consider something suitable to take such as a magazine, postcard or a flower catalogue.

At the visit:

  • Take off your coat and if possible leave it out of sight.
  • Try to appear as if just visiting in an informal way – “just dropping in”, rather than preplanned.
  • Wear something bright or colourful.
  • Approach from the front, don’t tap on the back/shoulder
  • As they look up, smile and greet them as if they have just made your day ”How lovely to see you!”
  • Sit at the same level.
  • Touch or hold their hand if appropriate.
  • Speak simply, one comment at a time.
  • Stop talking as soon as they start—listen.
  • Show interest with body language rather than words.
  • Avoid telling them about bad things that have happened to you or to others in the wider world.
  • Be fascinated in whatever they appear interested.
  • Treat repeated information as if it is the first time you have heard it.
  • If conversation is difficult, make a positive comment about one of their favourite subjects, even if it seems ‘out of the blue’. It won’t appear odd to them.
  • Convey cheerfulness. Be positive and reassuring.
  • When replying to questions, give only one piece of information and embed it in ‘good news’.
  • Accept incorrect statements – they may be caused by memory loss or faulty logic, but do acknowledge the emotions behind the words.
  • If they say or do something with which you disagree, please take care not to contradict them in word, facial expression or deed.
  • If they are convinced X is still alive perhaps ask them to tell you about them or just say they are not here.
  • Do everything possible to make them feel valued and important to you.



  • Other than with those in a relatively early stage, avoid making excuses to leave, or formally saying goodbye. When everything is going well, and before either of you tire, possibly murmur about needing to go to the toilet or to the car and wander out of the room. If you do this; you avoid the reality of saying goodbye, which can result in sad feelings. Departure should not be a ‘big deal’.


“Parachute in, evaporate out” (Sunrise suggests) & ‘Contented Dementia’ Trust


Things to do if conversation is not easy

Play a game together – dominoes or a simple card game, even if the rules appear to have ‘gone out of the window’.

Listen to a CD- familiar music, hymns or songs.

Watch a DVD of flowers, gardens, wild life, water views, hobbies.

Look at photographs or illustrated books.

Colour in a picture.

Read a simple poem or even a nursery rhyme

Smile, and share laughter.

If appropriate, take a soft toy for them to hold or stroke or a lavender bag to evoke memories.

for some Read a familiar passage from the Bible such as Psalm 23 or say The Lord’s Prayer.

You may be saddened by their condition but be encouraged in that you will have lessened their isolation and loneliness by your visit.


The visit need not last long. It is the feelings that remain not the length of time spent.

They might well forget that you came but the warmth and feelings of your visit will not be forgotten. & ‘Contented Dementia’ Trust

* Admin issues: SHARE dementia awareness thru buttons below. If interested in receiving notice of future blog postings there is a “follow” button in the upper left corner (MS Explorer) or lower right (Safari and Chrome). Feel free to leave your thoughts in the form of comments, but please filter your comments with truthful loving kindness to all concerned. If there is an advertisement below, I have no control over what is shown. — Copyright exclusively by Jennifer Bute on 2015-09/09 Registered & Protected


One thought on “Visiting Someone with Dementia

  1. Hello Jennifer,
    Wanted to let you know that this article will be included in the dementia “Symptom Perspectives” monthly links tonight, October 30, 2015
    I would like to thank you for sharing your lived experience. My hope is that these words and projects can become valuable resources for change in relationships, treatment, and policies.
    Much thanks,


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