I told you I’d forgotten something! More tips on how to make your visits richer.


If the person you’re visiting is hard-of-hearing, try this simple trick: Get closer! Move so you can speak directly into their ear. Often this is all they need, and you may not need to speak any louder.

If you do have to speak louder, go up in increments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen visitors and staff go from normal voice to YELLING. It always startles the client (and me!) so much, they nearly jump out of bed.


Or hum, or bring a CD of their favorite music. This is especially nice if someone is non-verbal. Our brains are hardwired for music (and art, by the way.) If you don’t believe in miracles, test yourself by watching this short clip of an elderly man restored to himself through the power of music.

Don’t be afraid to be silly. One client was only conscious a few minutes each day, and spent most of her time semi-conscious or asleep. I’m not good with remembering lyrics, so I sang the only song I could think of: Come Away With Me, Lucille, in My Merry Oldsmobile. In my defense, I was in a lot of gay ’90’s (that’s 1890’s!) musical revues in high school, and I love the word “automo-bubbling”….

Janey (not her real name) roused, opened one eye and glared at me. “Just how old do you think I am?!” she asked indignantly.


I don’t think I need to explain this one. You think the electronic babysitter is just used on kids?!

It’s especially heartbreaking to see how deeply affected clients are by having non-stop soap operas blasting all day. Some of the actually incorporate the dialogue into their dreams and memories. One day a poor gentlemen told me that people were angry at him, and yelling. He’d confused the the evil plots and cruel machinations of a daytime soap with real life.


If you have pictures of you and your friend together, bring ’em! Or ask them about the photographs they have on display. Usually these are ones they cherish and brought with them, or they are important photos their other friends and family have brought. Photos can be powerfully evocative.


Even people with plenty of cognitive aptitude can get confused. Poor eyesight, compromised hearing, being roused from sleep….Have mercy! Good Lord, no one likes it when a stranger turns up at a party and says, “Do you know who I am?” or “Do you remember me?”

Don’t ask them to guess who you are–tell them! “Hello, Frannie, my name is Luann. I’m Mary’s oldest daughter, the one who lives in New Hampshire.” Or, “Hello, Mrs. Brown, I’m Bill Meyers. I was your student when you taught second grade at Houghton Elementary School. I’m the boy who brought a snake for show-and-tell, and it got loose in the classroom!” Trust me, she’ll remember you.

For more great suggestions, visit JazznJewelry’s excellent comment to my previous post.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.


  1. One more if I may. Dementia. My first conversation was with my aunt. In a minute the era being discussed skipped from ’30’s, ’50’s to present day. I felt lost. Have conversed with a few more since I feel much more at ease. I don’t expect sense all the time. Go with the flow. If it makes sense fine. If it doesn’t, it’s you who is more likely to feel uncomfortable. The forgetful one is generally happy to repeat themselves 6 times in as many minutes. Just don’t let it bug you and make sure you don’t show it.


  2. Luann,
    Both of your articles contained alot of good advice. We recently visited my husband’s aunt. He is so uncomfortable that he just seems to talk to fill the discomfort. I encourage him to get at eye level and talk to her (looking in her eyes), but he talks all around, sometimes even looking at me. I continue to encourage him to look at her and talk more slowly and wait for a response. He just doesn’t “get” it. Is this mostly a “guy thing”? Just wondering if other folks have a similar experience. I know my husband means well. He just doesn’t deal with emotional situations very well and misses his aunt, as he used to know her.


    1. Oh, Susie, I wish I were a highly trained professional and had concrete advice for you. Yes, after a year in marriage counseling, the most important thing I learned is that guys can be wonderful, loving, intelligent, sociable partners and STILL not be good at the touchie-feelie stuff. Women have had more social conditioning to be receptive and giving in social situations, but we ALL struggle with the nursing home/hospice/hospital thing if we haven’t been taught well.

      Maybe a quiet talk over wine some evening, asking him why he feels so uncomfortable, and asking what he wants his last years with his aunt to look like. Encourage him to list his favorite memories that involve his aunt. Each time he visits, he can share one in depth, really sharing what it meant to him and how it affected him. She would love to know that she’s been an important part of his life, and sharing those stories with her would mean so much to her.

      Your last sentence (he misses his aunt as he used to know her) sounds like the core issue. It’s hard to see someone in a place where so much has been lost–physical strength and ability, self-reliance, independence, health. We feel like everything we say or do is a painful reminder for them. AND we’re afraid we’ll end up there someday, too. It’s the elephant in the room we don’t want to talk about.

      But NOT TALKING ABOUT IT is even more stressful for them. They actually expend energy trying to “maintain” the appearance of normalcy, so we won’t feel uncomfortable. What a burden!

      The most important thing is to simply BE IN THE MOMENT. And breathe. It’s odd, but the hardest thing for me to learn was to just sit and hold their hand and LISTEN. It can still take me a few minutes to get into the groove. But it’s powerful when I do.

      Years ago, in a workshop, the instructor said, “The best thing you can give a woman is to LISTEN to her.” That statement becomes more true for me as time goes on.

      I hope this helps. Let me know, I’ll be thinking of you!


      1. Luann, thanks for the suggestions. Being in the moment is really the problem. This guy is someone whose job it is to solve problems for people. He can’t solve this one. I think it’s too painful for him to be in this moment. But it’s worth a try to have that talk. The wine is a genius touch. 🙂


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