Having a Successful Nursing Home Visit

 

 

Visiting in a Nursing Home

 

Some people find it uncomfortable to visit someone in a nursing home. This is especially true if the person is not a direct relative. Residents of nursing homes are there because they need a high level of personal care. They may be taking medications which could make them sleepy or not as talkative as they used to be. Many people find that they don't know what to say or how to communicate with a person under these conditions. This can be discouraging and can make a person less likely to want to come visit again.

Often, the fact that someone cares enough to visit is all that is needed from a resident's point of view. But, that is not always enough for the visitor.

 

Here are some suggestions for making the time more meaningful for both parties.

  • Bring current newspapers or magazines to read to the resident. They may have ideas that they would like to share about current events or fashion.
  • Share family stories and events.
  • Share stories and memories of family events in which the resident would have participated.
  • Sometimes touch can be very comforting. Offer a manicure, pedicure, hair brushing, massage, or backrub. Do remember, though, that older skin can be very fragile.
  • Bring makeup, perfume, aftershave, or other personal grooming items that would be a treat for the resident. If the resident is a woman, ask if she would like help with the makeup. (Tip: don't leave expensive items.)
  • Offer to escort the resident to an event that the facility is offering such as exercise or a movie.
  • Put a bird feeder outside his/her window and keep it filled with seed. (Note: be sure to get permission from the facility.)
  • Bring items that the resident used to love like flowers or a favorite candy (if diet permits) or a pair of warm soft socks.
  • Bring children in the family to visit. Maybe the children could make a picture for the wall to bring and present. Have them share their school experiences and pictures.
  • Bring a pet to visit. (Note: be sure to get permission from the facility and be sure the pet is clean and well behaved.)
  • Take a walk with the resident especially if you can take them outside. If the resident is in a wheelchair, push them around the facility, go to visit another resident, or take them outside.
  • Bring pictures. It is best to select a theme, such as a particular birthday, or a special play, or a certain event and bring pictures for just that event. Bring pictures of another event next time.
  • Celebrate holidays and the resident's birthday. The celebration doesn't have to be fancy or involve more that just you and the resident. All that is needed is that the resident know that you cared enough to remember them.
  • Bring a book and read a chapter or get a book on tape and listen together. Remember to not do too much in a single visit and don't start a book reading unless you intend to finish.
  • Bring their favorite music and listen to it with them.
  • Hold hands, hug, and/or squeeze the resident's arm or shoulder. Let them know you care in any way you think would be meaningful.
  • Visit regularly. The more you visit, the more you will have in common and the easier the visits will become. Involve other residents in the visit, if desired, as well. Some resident's don't have family and would welcome the inclusion.
Man Getting Kiss on Cheek
Happy Man

 

The Duke Family Support Program, a noted authority on Alzheimer's Disease, lists these activities as ones that would work well with residents who have dementia. As you will see, they are just as relevant for any nursing home resident.

Things to Do:

  • Substitute shared activities for limited conversation:
    manicure, hairdo, massage, watching entertainment, looking at picture albums, writing letters, hand work, watching TV news, volunteer work, walks, outings.

  • Reminisce:
    Your favorite Christmas? Your first car? The smell of a wood stove? Baking at the old home place? Note: If your relative is very impaired, you need to reminisce further back in time.

  • Shared rituals:
    Bring a pet or favorite stuffed animal or watch birds, squirrels or children playing from the windows. Start your own visiting rituals of things you do each time.

  • Use the arts and your skills:
    music, poetry, hymns, photos, videos or audios, art work, games (even if your relative can't play well, he or she still may enjoy the activity). One man found that the slapstick humor of old Jackie Gleason Honeymooners tapes calmed his wife's agitation.

Things to Remember:

  • You don't have to be busy every moment.
    Silence can be golden-tender moments watching birds, listening to music, sermons or shared private meditation or prayer can bring enjoyment to your relative.

  • Respect personal space, possessions, and limited energy.
    Knock before entering. Ask before moving things around or sitting on the bed. Go slow…keep pace with your relative's concentration and tolerance.

  • This is your relative's home.
    Behave as if you were visiting in his or her home.

  • Your presence is enough.
    Visit like you really mean it.


Things Not To Do:

  • Rush in, standing at the door, as if you are on your way out.
  • Give a litany of your problems or obstacles to visiting.
  • Apologize or "castastrophize" your guilt or failure - it's not your fault and you and your relative are in this together.
  • Change the subject when your relative expresses negative or sad feelings.
  • Give advice, nag or use baby talk.

 

 

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