I’m just curious to see the various responses. Obviously, it will vary depending on the relationship & situation. I’m just wondering what others do.

Mom has early-mid dementia and I’ve gotten into a routine of going to visit her in Memory Care weekly on the same day. For about an hour, we just sit in the main room and we talk about weather, food, my pets, etc. It’s kinda awful. I would probably be okay with 10 min visits but she always hates it when I leave and I always feel guilty because I would hate being left there or being in her shoes too!! I would like to visit less often but I worry that I’ll regret not visiting more when she’s gone. It’s a cycle of feeling either guilt, or inconvenienced and resentment, or fear of future guilt! When I ask the nurses if the other residents’ kids come to visit and how often, they say it varies but 1-3 x week for most. We never had the best relationship but I think we both did the best we could. I just find myself dreading the weekly visit because there are so many other things I should (could) be doing to feel productive but I also struggle with just sitting there trying to think of things to say! I’m the only visitor she has. I sometimes take her out to the store or to eat but it’s getting more difficult to do that. She’s always happy to see me but I’m not even sure she would know if I skipped a week. If I could touch base with a phone call instead of a visit, I would but she keeps turning off her phone by accident so an in person visit (25 min drive) is the only option. I work from home so it’s do’able. It’s just starting to feel more like a chore and I hate the guilt of not taking advantage of the remaining time she has since dementia will probably steal her ability to talk at all before we’re prepared.

How often do you visit if you’re in the same town and what do you do during your visit? Do you find it difficult to just sit and do nothing if they aren’t really capable of engaging except for simple conversation?

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As someone else pointed out, our visits serve a dual purpose besides just keeping in touch with the loved one. We are the eyes, ears, hands and mind for a very vulnerable person. It would be wonderful to think they would receive excellent care whether you made frequent visits or not, but that is not always the case. Your presence serves to keep them on their toes.
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goodzmom Nov 3, 2019
Excellent advice!
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With my granny I would do the hi how are you, let's change your baby dolls clothes, never called it a doll. I would bring a new outfit that I had found at the thrift store and show her, then we would go share a coke, which was hilarious as it gave her the shivers to drink carbonated drinks, but she loved it and we would laugh and laugh as she sipped and shivered, then I would push her through the facility saying hi, she not so much, then maybe sit outside and then we would go to her room and play catch with a stuffed animal. She was almost nonverbal and had no idea who I was but we laughed and enjoyed the time.

I didn't worry if she remembered 5 minutes after I left that I had been there, I knew that she enjoyed the visit while it was taking place and that was good enough.

Depending on the ability level I think games that engage them in the moment are great, whether that is go fish, slap jack or bridge, whatever they can enjoy. I played cribbage with a gentleman that I companion sat with and I didn't know how to play and he couldn't remember, but we passed many happy laughter filled hours playing. It is a lot like engaging with a child, it's not what you do as long as you do it together.

This time of year is a good time to get craft items at high discounts, maybe build a gingerbread house or a puzzle.

Most importantly do what you feel like you should.
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herdingcats Nov 3, 2019
Sweet answer. Yes, I feel like spending the time is important. They love our visits so much. Even serving as someone to vent to, though hard, is serving an important service. I say let her vent a little and then find things that you also enjoy, such as going out to eat or just a walk around the grounds, or games or puzzles as suggested here.

Sorry it's hard! I'm with you that it's not always easy. Try to remember how important you are to her, even if she doesn't know the best ways to show it!
My 92 y/o mother also lives in Memory Care about 4 miles down the road from me. I hate hate HATE visiting her and dread it with every ounce of my being. All she does is complain and gripe from the minute we get there until the minute we leave, so it's annoying and exhausting. She hates looking at photos so we can't do that to pass the time. She hated my father, so we can't talk about him at ALL. So we wind up sitting there (my husband and I) like 2 boobs, listening to her carrying on the whole time.

So we have found the best thing to do is to take her out to eat, which is a giant chore due to her being in a wheelchair, but it's a DIVERSION and keeps her griping to a minimum. She's very hard of hearing too, so the noise in the restaurant is a problem.........her motor skills are compromised so the actual eating is a problem........but hey, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

I don't feel particularly sorry for her being in Memory Care.........she's in pretty good health for almost 93, and has the money to live in a wonderful place with people who dote on her, so she's better off than many other people her age. She has spent her whole entire life complaining about how we weren't good enough, her home wasn't enough, her life wasn't good enough, my father didn't give her what she nowadays, what's different? Nothing.

It is what it is. I do not feel guilty for anything because I'm doing nothing 'wrong'. Neither are you. Figure out what diversion technique you can use to make the visits less than dreadful moving forward. Bringing snacks is always a good one, I have found. Also, People magazine or a rag like National Enquirer or Star is good for a brief diversion or a quick look-see for what people are wearing or a juicy piece of celebrity gossip.

Also, I work as a receptionist in a MC community; here is what I've noticed: most visitors stay for about 20 minutes. They're in and out like the wind, visit for a short period, and leave. There are a few daughters who have had exceptional relationships with their loving mothers and they come nearly every day and spend 2 hours or more at a pop. There are TWO such daughters who do that on a regular basis. The rest of the family members come and go very quickly. The whole environment is difficult, so many family members take the resident out for a walk on the grounds or for a quick ice cream or to the McDonalds across the road. The visits are brief, is my point. They can't really engage in a true conversation anyway, so again, DISTRACTION is they key.

Best of luck and try to stop feeling're not doing anything 'wrong'.
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Good afternoon, Meadow,

This question involves so many variables as you say, so I can only relate my experience. My parents lived together in a nursing facility for almost two years prior to my father recently passing away. I live about 30 minutes away and before I retired, I would visit twice a week. I would stay anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. After retiring, I visit usually every other day, and stay for the same time. Now that my mother is alone in the nursing home, my family and I have stepped up the visits. We don’t plan to continue this level for long but at least until we see our mother developing more relationships with the other residents. I go there around dinner time and stay until she goes to bed around 8:00 or 8:30. I think nighttime is the hardest time for her without my father, and it is a comfort to her to have one of her children there. We eat dinner together, then go back to her room, watch a little TV, and I supervise her nighttime routine: brushing teeth, picking out a nighty, praying together and tucking her in bed.

If I visit during the day, I usually spend the first 15 minutes of the visit on what I call “housekeeping”: organizing her room, advocating for her health with the nurses, CNA’s, social worker, etc. We might play Bingo with the other residents, watch a movie together or just sit together. My parents both had mild to moderate dementia so conversations were always very limited. I often bring some crochet project to work on, or do a crossword puzzle. My mother doesn’t need to be entertained by me - she just enjoys my presence.

Yes, I often dread going to see her, especially after my father died, but I don’t go on my own strength but the Lord’s. This power and strength enables me, once there, to enjoy my visit and create some good memories with her.
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Harpcat Nov 3, 2019
You sound like a very loving daughter. This is exactly how I begin my visit with the help of God and doing the work of Jesus on earth. It is my ministry. I wish my visits with my dad were enjoyable but they aren’t. But I feel I need to be a witness to his life and it’s ultimate end. We are not guaranteed a lovely life with our parents and many have good reasons to be resentful. I try to focus on what needs to be done and do my absolute best with compassion. That’s all I can do. I do know that this experience of him living here and with dementia has been a life lesson and a teacher to me and for that I am grateful.
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Well, it's two hours a week. Two hours by the time you've got in your car, driven there, sat with her, and driven back.

Compare that with the time you spend on other things, whether you enjoy them or not so much. That might help put the actual time taken up in perspective.

To leaven the lump: what do you do during the drive? Could you put on music, or compose memos on your phone, or learn a foreign language? Is there much of a scenic view on the route? Is there a café on the way back where you could treat yourself to something as a reward?

During the visit - you could take a magazine, and share that with your mother; or knit; or sort photos, or write family letters; you could probably even sit and read a book, because I expect it's your presence alone that matters to your mother, rather than the scintillating conversation.

Working from home and running a household, I expect that like most people you're incredibly short of time to yourself. You could look on the journey time as enforced time to yourself, and what's more you're using it in a good cause.

I wouldn't, myself, recommend that you cut back more than you must. Once you do that it tends to be that the intervals between visits will start to stretch, and the length of the visits will dwindle, and eventually your mother will become one of those whom nobody has time for, and that would be very sad.

Try looking on the visits as above, as a kind of practical meditation, and see how it goes. If you go on feeling worse and worse about them there's no law to say how often you have to see your mother, but I think, if you possibly can keep them up, in the end you'll be glad you did.
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I would go twice a week and would go when it was lunch. That way I could help her and have lunch with her. It also allowed me to check up that she was being looked after properly. If I though she was looking a bit unkempt I would mention it to staff. Its important to go because it keeps staff on their toes and mix up the days you turn up
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I live only a 10 minute walk from my mom's assisted living. I took care of her for 7 years before she moved there, so I became her everything. I visit just about every day. I'm emeritus professor, so only teach part time now, but have a career as an artist so I'm pretty much always working. However, because I'm the only person who visits my mom on a regular basis I feel I must continue to do so. Most of the time I enjoy visiting her, but that might be because it is so much easier now that I'm her daughter again, not her care giver. I also have had a reasonably good relationship with my mom all my life. She and I have no interests in common and she now does not even know that I'm an artist or professor, so conversations are only about her and anyone in the family she partly remembers - most are dead. But she does know I'm her daughter and when she doesn't know the answer to any question she replies, "Ask my daughter". Whenever out of state family visit I almost insist that they go see her. Those visits are always great in the moment, but she doesn't remember them 5 minutes later. I've learned to live in the moment when with my mom and those moments make her happy long after she's forgotten the visits. I take her for rides in the countryside and mountains, to her doctor and dentist appointments, etc. She's an every day part of my life. It's fairly easy now, but I know there are most likely hard times in the future and try to not dread what is to come. I guess the difference, Meadow, is that I mostly enjoy my mom. People try to make me feel sorry for myself, but really it's okay so far for me.
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Treeartist Nov 1, 2019

I have been thinking about your statement “People try to make me feel sorry for myself, but really it’s okay so far for me.” I know exactly what you mean! This has happened many times in my life, and more recently last weekend. With time, I have learned how to handle it so it doesn’t send me into THEIR idea of pity. Sometimes it catches me by surprise and I have to remind myself that others’ idea of a joyful life is not mine. I would SO love to have only a 10 minute walk to be with mother as you do. I am happy for you!
Well, it depends on your parent, but with my Mom, I would time the visit for about 30 minutes before her favorite soap opera started. That would give us time to have a small chat, and for us to go get a cup of coffee and take it to the TV room. Where it would just happen to be time for "our" favorite soap to start. So much easier to watch General Hospital, than to just sit and stare a the wall. Other times, if the weather was good, I'd wheel her chair outside for a short walk. She very soon, wasn't even up to even a simple chat, so I switched to doing her hair, while I was there. I asked the nurses for the schduled days that they would wash Mom's hair, and I made a point of visiting that after noon. I brought in a steam hair setter, and would set her hair. Still, I'd put on the TV, so we could both pretend to watch, since conversation wasn't happening anymore.

With Dad, he was a little more aware, and had alway had a terrible sweet tooth. (Thank goodness he waas not a diabetic) So I would stop at the donut shop on the way ther, and buy a few of his favorite glazed donuts. When I arrive at the Dementia care facilty, I'd take Dad to his room, (and make us a cup of decaf and have donuts. While we watched reruns (actually they were tapes) of Everybody Loves Raymond. Dad just loved that show. Other times, we listened to CD's of his favorite music Dean Martin, Tony Bennet, Frank Sinatra, etc. And while the music played we look at old family photos.

That was something I'd tried with Mom, but quickly realized she could not see enough to see the photos, due to cataracts. By the time we'd gotten her eyes done, she was no longer cognitively able to understand.

Then with Dad, who was about five years behind Mom on the Alzheimer's path, I started a photo album for him. It was a big 4 inch thick binder, titled "La Mia Famiglia" (Italian for : My Family). In the photo album there were a few basic pictures of Dad, and Mom, to start. Then every time I visited, I brought a few pages of more photos. The best of the old ones. So we'd mount the photos in the album, and I'd ask him questions about the people/places or time. Dad would still remember the old days, his brothers, and family.

My favorite was the day I'd brought a simple photo of Mom, from when she had been about sixty years old. And as Dad gazed at that photo for a long while, he said: "So beautiful. She was always so beautiful."
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You might find it easier to visit when there is an activity going on that you can both take part in (I got a kick out of Friday morning sing-a-longs), sitting with her during a musical program or bingo or whatever counts as together time and you don't have to make conversation. Joining her for a meal in the dining room is another good option.
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My mother has mid to late dementia. Although she is unable to remember specifics of our visits together, my visits contribute to her overall feeling of well-being. For example, one day I took her to see a matinee of Downton Abbey (because she is British and has always had a strong connection to the queen), then to a lovely lunch. Before arriving home we stopped at the park for a little walk. As we were leaving the park, I reminded her of what we had done that day. She had already forgotten about the movie and lunch! But the important thing was that she was happy. Although dementia patients may not remember what transpired, they definitely will benefit by retaining a positive sense of well-being.

If you are feeling guilty, it may be a conditioned response from when you were little if you were groomed to be a "good girl." If the parental love you received was given on the condition that you were doing what your parents expected you to do, then you may end up with a guilt complex when you know you are "disobeying," even when that disobedience is only in your mind. (If this rings true, you might want to read "You're Not Crazy, It's Your Mother.)

When we frame things by saying, "I have to" or "I should," we may be taking away the feeling that we have a choice. The fact is, you do not have to visit your mother at all. You may visit her; it is your choice. As others have suggested, you may find it helpful to bring something you enjoy into these visits. For example, I enjoy meditation so I put on some relaxing music and we both close our eyes and "relax for a bit." We go for walks - fresh air is good for both of us. We play our own "cooperative" version of Rummicub instead of the normal competitive way. Yesterday I stopped by to give my mom a shower and wash her hair, etc. When we were all done, I announced I had to leave to go grocery shopping. She kept saying, "You are going to leave right now???" The old me would have caved and spent more time with her, only to be overly exhausted by the time I got home. You must find a balance that is good for you, too. But if you are feeling uncomfortable with a one hour visit just once a week, I suspect you have other issues in the relationship which may need to be worked out. :) Best to you!
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