Where Dad lives there are about 30 people and Dad is one of only two who get regular visitors. I can see the difference you know. I was thinking grimly to myself today that all my damn visiting is going to mean that Dad has a far better chance of surviving longer. He has a spark in him that noone else does and when I don't visit him on my return I can see the damage it has done. Though its not irreparable. The hugs and cuddles and kisses really make a difference. One on one attention is a marvellous medicine. I saw a man visit his wife today, she is one who cries and moans and is oh so sad always wanting me to hold her hand and talk to her and never wants to let go. He sat there during lunch and was absolutely saddened and depressed by the situation and she got very little out of the visit as did he. I thought to myself 'No wonder he doesn't visit much'. I couldn't blame him. I've been thinking, 'Why am I able to get something from this, why do I bring happiness to Dad on my visits. I know if everyone felt like me there'd be visitors everywhere and the place would be lively and loud, and not at all grim like it is....' I've been thinking about it and the only thing I can come up with is that this has always been my job and so I've had the practice, thought I'd post my thoughts here in case this can help others have a more meaningful visit with their loved one, more meaningful for them and more meaningful for the dementia sufferer. What I mean by 'its always been my job' is that ever since I can remember my Dad suffered from very volatile mood swings. There was no rhyme or reason for them, I could leave one school book on the floor and he would absolutley explode. He never hit me but sheesh he was a very scarey Dad when he was angry, and the fact that you never knew when it was coming was freaky! Anyway perhaps I am so good at this because from a very young age I learnt to read moods, I learnt to try and think ahead of all the things that might trigger a bad mood/response and I learnt to just roll with the mood and do damage control if there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I also learnt to recognise that Dad's behaviour was not a reflection of his love for me, it was something he couldn't control, but I could reduce the damage done by it by not taking it to heart and thinking oh so fast of ways to change the direction he was heading in. Distract, play the clown, be adorable anything to disarm him. I guess I'm still playing that game now.... So go into the home and expect it to be difficult, think ahead and think of ways to distract, things to do, contingencies. I have a bottle of moisturiser and containers of biscuits, a cd headphone set, if you have a female in a home, maybe nail polish and magazines or pretty things, depending upon the level they are at. It doesn't matter that they may not be interested, its just a distraction to use if necessary, a change of topic, of focus. I can't count the number of times I took a newspaper to Dad, he doesn't read, and knowing that he would not be interested in it, would just use it as a prop, and when the silence was growing or he was obsessed with some hallucination pick it up myself and say 'Oh would you look at that, what is he up to?', Dad wouldn't necessarily take in what I said, but it changed the mood and direction of the room. If a tactic fails, just let it go and move onto another. Learn from it, try to come up with ways that you might be able to improve a similar situation in the future if it happens again. Expect this visit to be all about them, and not about you. You can try to tell them about your life, but with Dad, he appears not to understand, care, comprehend, nevertheless I keep him updated just in case he is taking it in somewhere and so that if he is aware he knows that I think he might still be capable. If they are willing holding hands, rubbing their back, rubbing their upper arm are always good strategies Try not to talk about them to other people, include them in any conversations you might have with other people. This can be tricky. I said to the man visiting his wife today "Gayle is saying a lot of words lately I've noticed." then I turned to Gayle and said "When I was holding your hand last night you said good a lot didn't you?" Don't argue with your loved one no matter what they say, it will get you and them nowhere. This does not mean you have to agree with them. One of the ladies at Dad's home insists there is a downstairs. I don't disagree I just day, 'Oh really I didn't know there was a downstairs, how interesting.' When they say something like "Can you tell me how to get downstairs" it can become a little more tricky, or "Why can't I go home?", I answer these sorts of questions with a "Oh I don't know, I haven't been downstairs before, but you know dinner is just about to be served' or "Can you tell me where I can find....?" Often you can redirect them to the staff as well. With the go home question I try to distract or if worse comes to worse tell them that "They are here because its a safe place to be" Sometimes there is never a good answer though, but life can't always be easy! Try to be a comfort and if worse comes to worst give them space and just step back and let it happen. This too in time will pass. Pick a good time. Find out when your loved one is usually in bed, at meals, when they seem the grumpiest/happiest, when there are other events on at the home and use this knowledge to your advantage. I used to initially only visit Dad at meal times because it was easy to visit with a person who doesn't talk for an hour when they are eating! Now I avoid meal times because I enjoy walking with him or cuddling him, talking to him. All I can say to sum up is fighting it just hurts, going with the flow can hurt too but its a lesser hurt and everyone comes out of it less agitated, and when you get good at it all, it can mean you walk out of there feeling like you did some good. One last piece of advice, fake it, fake it, fake it until it becomes real! Walk in there smiling and happy no matter how your heart is feeling. I learnt a trick a long time ago you know if you force yourself to smile, even in the most devestating circumstances its amazing the effect it has on your mood and those around you. Dad also has a habit of whacking me in the face sometimes and it hurts emotionally as well as physically, but all I do is say "Oh I wish you wouldn't do that, I wonder why you do, is there something on my face, what can you see" and for the rest of the visit I stay out of range of that hand by sitting to his side, or holding it and rubbing it. Being upset at them is pointless, he obviously has a reason for doing it, that I can't understand or else he wouldn't do it, me getting angry or showing him the amount I was hurt is just going to upset him further. I still cry on some visits because I can't help it, but generally that only happens when Dad shuts his eyes.