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Making the most of your visit

Dementia advice

When your loved one moves into a care home, keeping in touch and knowing how often to visit can feel stressful as your routines change. But establishing a balance with meaningful visits is important for helping your loved one settle into their new home and keeping them healthy and happy.

We understand that visits aren’t always easy, especially when a loved one is living with dementia. You may even wonder whether it’s worth it to visit your loved one if they don’t recognise you or become agitated during your visit. Remember, people with dementia may lose memories, but they don’t lose feelings. Visits can help to combat loneliness, rekindle memories and give your loved one a sense of purpose. 

To help you spend meaningful time with your loved one, we’ve put together this guide with 13 tips for making the most of your visit with someone who is living with dementia.

1 - It’s all in the timing

Try and visit in the middle of the day. Evenings can be quite difficult for residents in care homes as they often become tired and agitated. Neither of you will get the most out of a visit at the end of a day, so avoid that slot if you possibly can.

2 - Call ahead

The last thing you want to do is turn up to a home with a jigsaw puzzle to do together when your loved one doesn’t want to get out of bed. Ask the staff what to expect and you can come prepared.

3 - Think about how to best greet your loved one

As dementia progresses, and the person spends more time living in the past, they will probably respond better if you use their most familiar name. Being called Dad or Grandad might confuse them so you may have to get used to using their Christian name if that puts them at ease.

4 - Let the person living with dementia lead the way at the visit

Ask them if they would like to sit in the lounge or their room; if they would like tea or coffee; if they would prefer to have a stroll around the inside of the home or the outside. They need to feel valued and independent.

5 - Try to turn off background noise

Loud environments can be disorientating at the best of times but for someone living with dementia, being confronted with a blaring radio in one room and a loud television in the other can be especially confusing.

6 - Take along a four-legged friend

The positive benefits of stroking a dog cannot be over-estimated – and are even more beneficial for someone who has perhaps lost some of their communication skills.               

7 - Go outside

Fresh air and a walk are good exercise whatever your age – just tailor how strenuous it is to the right level. A gentle stroll in the park or to a nearby shop

8 - Bring some jobs that need doing

Maybe you have got some peas that need shelling or some flowers that need arranging. This will give them a real sense of purpose and give you both something to talk about.

9 - Bring someone along to your visit – even if they can’t make it in person

Get them to record a video message, write a letter, send some pictures or speak over a video call.

10 - Do a project together that you can pick up on every visit

Like knitting a scarf, following a tapestry project or making a collage. You will both have something to look forward to then.

11 - Carry on with routines

If you both used to read the papers over breakfast or on lazy Sunday mornings, carry on doing just that. Take two copies of the same newspaper so that you can talk about the articles that interest you both.

12 - Play a game

It’s easy to think that just because someone isn’t communicating well that they can’t play Scrabble, or bridge or whist. You might just be surprised!

13 - Virtual visits 

Our teams are dedicated to helping residents stay connected to the people they care about no matter what, and we can help facilitate virtual visits for family members or friends who aren’t able to visit in person. Speak to your local home to find out more.

Discover more about visiting and keeping in touch or search for a care home near you. 

How often should you visit someone in a care home?

There is no right or wrong answer to how often you should visit a loved one who is living in a care home. Everyone’s situation is different. However, at Care UK, we know that visits help to reduce feelings of loneliness and they give residents a sense of purpose. 

Regular visits also help families keep up to date with what’s going on in the care home, ask questions and answer any questions our teams have for you. After all, family members tend to know their loved ones best, and the more you can tell us about their likes, dislikes and past experiences, the better care we can provide.

If you’re finding it difficult to have meaningful visits in a care home, use the tips above, or speak to the team at your loved one’s care home.

Are children allowed to visit care homes?

Children are welcome to visit Care UK homes. Use the five tips below to make a visit with children especially rewarding.

  1. Call ahead. Call the care home and see if there is going to be a particularly good day to visit with your child. Maybe they have animals visiting or have a baking class the child could join in with. It’s definitely worth asking.
  2. Whenever you visit, pack plenty of toys – but leave the noisy ones at home. Search out any toys that the child and the resident can enjoy together like completing a jigsaw or sharing a book. The traditional fairy tales like Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella would be particularly worth bringing along.
  3. Take some sweets. A sweet treat for the resident to give to their youngest visitor. Who doesn’t like Grandma’s sweetie box?
  4. Ask the child to make something. A special gift for the person they are visiting – a picture, a cake or model all go down well.
  5. Get out in the garden. Have a look at what the gardening club has been up to and see if the family can help with any dead-heading, weeding or tasting!

Explore more expert advice in our dementia advice hub, or visit our Big Dementia Conversation page to learn more about our campaign to get the nation talking about dementia.


At Care UK we support residents and their families to create a ‘keeping in touch’ plan, and visits are an important part of this. If your loved one no longer recognises family members you may question whether it is still worth visiting them. We would encourage you to keep popping in – even if your relative or friend has lost their memories, they will still benefit from the positive feelings of your visit.

Explore advice for visiting a loved one with dementia in our free guide, Listen, talk, connect.

Visits can keep your loved one active and engaged, and they are especially important when they are settling into a new home. However, every individual is different and will have different preferences, so it may be helpful to focus on the quality of your time together rather than the quantity.