At Concordia, we see firsthand how much our senior loved ones in a nursing home or assisted living facility enjoy having visitors on a regular basis. It keeps them connected with their friends and family outside of their home and it breaks up their routine. Unfortunately, many people make only brief visits to loved ones in assisted living, rehab facilities, or nursing homes — or avoid visiting completely — because they are worried about awkward moments.
For some people, visiting a nursing home can be stressful, because they feel that they won’t know what to say or that they’ll run out of things to say. But visits can provide wonderful opportunities for bonding, connection and learning from one another, and we see this every day at our Concordia locations.
Consider some of these tips when planning or contemplating your next visit.
Plan Your Visit in Advance: Many residents have the most energy in the morning or right after a midday meal. Call ahead to ask if you’re unsure when a good visiting time is. Meal time can be a good time for a visit as the meal itself can give you both something to focus on, especially if your loved one could use a little help.
Set the Right Tone with Your Body Language and Approach: Smile and say hello, not only to your loved one, but to other residents as well; they may wish to communicate with you when you visit your loved one. Make eye contact, give a warm hug or handclasp, sit down and talk at eye level with your loved one.
Be Present: Slow down your pace a bit so that you can enjoy quiet talk. Pay attention to your nonverbal communication; fidgeting with your keys and checking your phone every five minutes may indicate that you’d rather not be with your loved one. Consider turning off your electronics during your visit to make the best effort at being present.
Remember Why You’re There: Even if the outer package has changed with your loved one, he or she is still there. Afford them and yourself that opportunity to connect.
Consider Your Communication Style: You may need to raise your voice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean shouting. Simply talking slower, a bit louder and at face level may be all you need.
Bring Items With You: You can take some pressure off yourself by bringing items you can share with your loved one, perhaps some photos, a movie, or even an old toy or collectible. If your loved one enjoys food, why not bring a few recipe cards – especially ones that you shared together. If you have young children or pets, those can be wonderful additions to your visit. Ask ahead about the facility’s policies regarding animals, but many are very welcoming.
Consider the Length of Your Visit: There is no set amount of time that is best when visiting a loved one because every person is different. Take into consideration the health and energy of your loved one as well as how your visit is going. If your loved one seems tired, then it may be a good time to let them rest. On the other hand, if your loved one is having a great time sharing stories, don’t feel that you have to leave. Consider, though, that people may appreciate a shorter visit filled with touching conversation compared to a longer visit filled with silence.
Don’t Let Dementia Intimidate You: If your loved one has dementia, you may feel intimidated by the circular conversations and how to respond to them. The most important thing you can do is be patient and positive. You may need to repeat yourself or help the conversation along at times. In some ways, though, this can also make conversations easier. If you find that your loved one likes to talk about a certain topic, participate in certain activities, or spend time outside, incorporate that into your visits.
Include Your Loved One as Part of the Family: Even though your loved one may not live in the same environment as before they are still an important part of your family. Continue to include your loved one as part of the family by bringing them to family gatherings such as birthday parties or holiday dinners (if they can do so safely). Make the most of those visits by taking pictures and bringing printouts to their new home so that they can relive those moments and share them with their friends.
We hope these tips will help make the next visit with your loved one more enjoyable, less stressful, and full of lasting memories. Don’t forget that, in the end, you can make the most of your visits simply by being present. It’s time you’ll never regret spending.
If you are a family caregiver and are unsure how to best care for your loved one, or are neglecting yourself due to care giving, our trained and compassionate staff at Concordia is here to help you. Contact us today via our online contact form or by calling us at 724-352-1571. You can also visit the care levels & services page of our website to learn how we can help you care for your loved ones with our wide range of services including Adult Day Services, Retirement Living, Long-Term Nursing Care, and more.
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