You might find it hard to visit your grandmother, neighbor, or uncle in a nursing home. Your loved one may be in advanced stages of dementia, and it’s painful to see them that way. If they can no longer even communicate, you might wonder if visiting even makes a difference.
At Delmar Nursing and Rehab, we can tell you emphatically that your visit makes a big difference in your loved one’s day. Even surrounded by loving and caring staff, your parent or grandparent feels lonely without family visits. Regular visits can help patients with dementia connect to the person they used to be.
Here are some tips to help you maximize your visit and make it meaningful:
• Coordinate your visit in advance with the nursing staff.
Seniors, especially those with dementia, crave schedule and consistency. The last thing you want to do is show up just when they’re ready to go have lunch, or when they usually settle down for a nap. Our nursing staff recommends people visit in the afternoon, since in the morning they will be helping your loved one bathe and dress. Your loved one may feel uncomfortable being attended to while you’re there.
If you’re not sure what time would be best, call ahead to the nurses’ station. They will also know what time of day your loved one is most alert.
• Prepare something to do or talk about.
If you haven’t visited in a while, bring along snapshots of your life to share with your loved one. Photos of your children, pets, travels, or anything else you’ve been busy with will help you break the ice and make conversation. You can even put together a photo album with old and new photos of family members as a gift. Flipping through the album after you leave will help your loved one stay connected to you.
You can also bring something your loved one was interested in throughout their lives. If you inherited grandma’s love for knitting, you can show off your most recent project. If Dad loved football, bring him the latest news and scores.
Depending on your loved one’s mobility, you may want to take them for a walk around the facility. They can show you where they hang out, and introduce you to their favorite staff members.
• Bring your children.
Some kids may be frightened from elderly and sick people, but most kids take unusual situations in stride. Unless you have a particularly anxious child, most children will benefit from visiting a nursing home. Being exposed to sick people will help your child cultivate empathy and compassion. And since children are natural icebreakers, having them around can help keep the conversation going. Seniors love children, so prepare for your family to be the celebrities of the day.
• Touch your loved one as much as possible.
All humans need to be regularly touched affectionately. At Delmar Nursing and Rehab, our staff is gentle and loving, but they generally don’t have time for loving touch beyond a quick hug every now and then. When you visit, try to touch as much as possible. Long hugs, gentle back rubs, or soft hand massages can go a long way in relaxing your loved one and helping them feel safe.
Do you have any other tips for those nervous about visiting their family member in a nursing home? Share them in the comments below!