Over the next few days MHA Dementia Care Homes will take the first steps to welcome back family and friends of their residents. It will happen in a thoughtful and carefully regulated way. Behind the decision lies the understanding that such visits are vital to the wellbeing of residents. As the largest charity care provider Methodist Homes for the Aged (to borrow the ‘old’ name) are leading the way, and alongside the carer’s support group John’s Campaign, have put together a booklet for visitors. In this document they address the question that so many have lived with through Lockdown – ‘Will my relative still remember me after all this time?’
“For many people the worry of a relative no longer recognising you can be overwhelming. But it is important to stress that despite the time spent apart many people living with dementia will remember their relatives and friends. However, some people living with dementia may struggle at first. If the person with dementia doesn’t recognise you straight away, try not to worry and give your relative time to remember. It may take more than the initial meeting for those memories to be reconnected to you. Also, you might need to: re-introduce yourself and remind them of the relationship between the two of you; consider taking with you an object that you can give to your relative / friend with dementia which will remind them of the connection the two of you have; talk about the distant past first rather than the recent months …
“If, despite all of your attempts your relative doesn’t recognise you remember that their emotions still remain. They will still benefit from seeing your friendly face, hearing your voice, and enjoying your company even if they are not sure who you are.”(Visiting a relative with dementia living in a care home, MHA, June 2020)
We are thankful for the carers and support staff
who have looked after the old and vulnerable in recent months;
those who have had to tend to practical needs
and offer the love that would otherwise have been absent.
As family and friends return
may they find the ‘right’ gentle words
and may patience and smiles be the markers.