Creating a meaningful visit


As dementia progresses and responsive behaviour increase, visits become challenging.  You may struggle to connect with her.  Below are activities for you and your friend. Like the other tips, what works one day may not the next.  Learn to observe (body language, tone of voice) and listen, even if he can no longer say words.  We must always be flexible and change strategies when necessary.

    • Familiarize yourself with the facility's schedule and the person's routine. When do they have lunch? When do they nap? For most, morning visits are better than evenings. 
  • Visits between a half-hour and an hour are best, especially for those who tire easily.
  • Give a manicure, massage hands and feet with cream, wash and set hair, give a facial, shave or apply make-up. Such activities help the person to feel cared for.
  • Look at newspapers and magazines together, taking time to read and discuss items depending on his capacity and interest.
  • Help with phone calls, birthday cards and gifts. Try to let her participate.
  • Keep a family diary or visitor’s book in her room. Visitors can write notes, providing a social record. They can leave messages for each other or record observations.
  • Plant an herb garden in window sill pots.
  • Exercise together.
  • Create a sensory box organized by theme, like jewellery, cookbooks, spices, newspaper clippings, gardening, old family pictures, potpourri, fishing, farming, sewing, etc.
  • Go for a walk or drive.
  • Go for a favourite treat or bring one to her.
  • Look through family pictures. Be sure to say “tell me more” when he talks about a memory.
  • Read out loud.
  • Listen to music.
  • Make a scrapbook.
  • Draw maps of travels, home or garden to spark reminiscence.
  • Attend religious services.
  • Bring a child or pet along and just watch.
  • Eat in the dining room or outside to make him feel like the host.
  • Bring a bouquet of flowers and arrange them in a vase together.

Saying goodbye after a visit:

A family member becoming distraught when you attempt to leave isn’t a responsive behaviour. But it is common and causes anguish for you both. To ease the transition:

  • Give a reason. If your spouse knows that you have to leave (e.g. you have a doctor’s appointment or pick up your child), he will be more accepting of it.  This suggests that you have to leave but do not want to.
  • Plan your departure to coincide with an event (e.g lunch or a planned activity). Get your Mom settled there and quietly leave. You don`t need to announce your departure.
  • Plan a quick exit.  Compared to a longer goodbye, your wife has less time to digest it.
  • Don’t say “goodbye,” which has a sense of finality.  Try “see you soon” or “bye for now.”
Example: Dora becomes distraught and grabs her husband when he goes to leave after a visit. Her husband feels guilty too and questions whether moving her into a long-term care home was the right decision.


  • Explain that you will be back in a few days and she doesn’t need to cry.


  • End your visits in time for her daily activity session. Walk her there and even join in for a round or two. 
  • When she is enjoying herself, say a quick “see you soon” in her ear and leave.
  • Ensure that the staff member running the session knows of your intent.

Last Updated: 11/08/2017