The answer depends on the physical and mental condition of both parties. Some caregivers are so worn out by the time placement occurs that they can only visit 1-2 times a week. The location of the facility from the caregiver can also affect visiting schedules. Optimally, daily visits are good because it allows the family to see how the individual is adjusting to the new surroundings, and if the new facility is responsive to the needs of the individual.
I pay more attention to the quality of the visits than the quantity of the visits.
Avoid asking questions like “Do you know who I am?” or “Do you know where you are?” These interactions will usually result in a negative experience for both visitor and resident. Visitors who accept the person with dementia as he or she is, who happily listen to the repetitive stories or some of the “fractured fairy tales,” without judgment or argument, create a positive experience.
I’ve watched the opposite happen, especially around Christmas and Mother’s Day. Family members who refuse, or who cannot, enter Alzheimer’s World and instead expect logic, reasoning, and arguments to somehow “fix” the person with dementia, often have unhappy visits and leave a very agitated, depressed, and sad person behind in their wake of good intentions. This experience further alienates them from their loved one, and creates a negative spiral where the family visits less and less because the visit is upsetting to both parties.
When my friend’s mother-in-law was in a nursing home, she visited every evening after work. They had a routine. They would sit and talk for a couple of minutes, and then they would walk to the other side of the facility and sit outside on her favorite bench and look at the rose gardens. If the weather was cool or rainy, they walked to the same area but sat inside and looked out the windows.
Her visits would usually last about an hour, maybe 90 minutes. But she went every day, and they had a routine.
After her daughter-in-law left, if Mary mentioned that no one had been there to see her, the nurses would tell her that they had just seen the two of them walking. She would smile and say, “Oh, that’s right.”
Her husband, however, was not dealing well with the situation of his mom being in a nursing home and he could only handle weekly visits. Mary would ask her daughter-in-law everyday where her son was and tell me that she had not seen him for weeks. Rather than argue, I told her he was out of town on business (he did travel for work at times) and that he loved her. He would come on Saturday…and he did.
Some family members restrict their visits because they are concerned that “leaving the person behind” may upset the person with Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve seen this happen when the family member walks toward the door and exits, while the resident stays behind.
The departure can better be handled by exiting during a natural break in the day’s activities. You could help your loved one get ready for bed, and then leave—that will make sense to the dementia resident, it’s bedtime, and it was time for family to also go home and go to sleep.
On weekends, when they visited in the afternoon, they left at suppertime. It was time for Mary to go to the dining room for her meal, and time for her son and daughter-in-law to go home and fix dinner for their kids.
Remember that quality visits will go a long way with keeping your loved one feeling settled, safe and secure in their new environment. Don’t try to re-orientate them as that will leave both yourself and your loved one very frustrated. Enter their ‘Alzheimer’s World’, embrace it, embrace them.