I volunteer to visit three ladies with dementia at a local memory care facility. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve made many mistakes.
Here’s the list. I hope it may be of help to others.
- I didn’t think to explain to any of the ladies who I was and why I was there. Two were alert and curious enough to ask me. The third just seemed sort of confused about my presence.
- I gave Nancy (not her real name) three instructions in one sentence. When I told her I was there to visit with her, she asked me how we went about that. I said, “First we go down to your room, then we sit down, and then we visit a while.” (No wonder she didn’t want to visit with me!)
- While we were walking to Nancy’s room I talked to her from behind, a clear “no no.”
- I didn’t observe that Nancy was getting seriously agitated when I played music for her and I didn’t stop playing it, as I should have.
- I have asked each of the three at least once if they remember some specific person or event. That only confuses them and makes them feel bad if they can’t remember.
- I corrected Carolyn when she told me she didn’t have a daughter. She had previously told me about her daughter, so I reminded her of that. She was needlessly embarrassed.
- I consistently forget to address them frequently using their names. Using their names would help us develop a bond.
- One day when I went to see Carolyn she already had another visitor. That woman told me to come in and I did. Carolyn became confused and I didn’t have the sense to leave and go back later. I should have left immediately when I saw how confused she was.
- I just assumed that Ruth didn’t remember anything from our last visit, when I had given her a photograph of a rose. When I arrived the following Thursday I picked up that photograph and asked her where she got it. She looked a little annoyed and said that I had given it to her. Never more will I assume any person with Alzheimer’s doesn’t remember some specific event!
- Finally, when Ruth asked me about her husband I made the mistake of telling her he had passed away, rather than using the generally agreed upon approach of telling a white lie and making up some reason he was temporarily gone.