Tips for Visiting Someone in a Nursing Home
Summer can be a time for travel, catching up with family and friends, and spending time outdoors. It can also mean more time and ability to visit loved ones in nursing homes. However, many people put off visiting friends and relatives in nursing homes because they are nervous, have had difficulty with visits in the past, or don’t know how to act.
Here are ten tips that may help you or someone you know make nursing home visits enjoyable for everyone:
1. Plan your visit: Know where you’re going, the home’s visiting hours policies, and the activity schedule.
2. Time your visit carefully: Ask the person you are visiting and the nurses when is a good time to visit. For example, some people are more alert and energized in the morning.
3. Make your visit brief, if needed: There’s no ideal length for a visit. Consider a half hour of warm connection over sitting in silence for twice that time. In addition, often people in nursing homes tire quickly, so shorter visits are better.
4. Try not to feel intimidated: It’s natural to feel self-conscious about how you’re “supposed” to act in a new situation. Consider it a gift to your loved one to set your own feelings aside.
5. Don’t be intimidated by dementia: Try not to turn a visit with a person with dementia into a series of challenging questions, where they feel put on the spot to remember or come up with the “right” answer. Instead try the phrase, “tell me about…”
6. Talk about yourself: Talking may take a lot of energy and tire the person out – listening may be an easier (and more pleasant) way to spend time together.
7. Go outdoors, if possible: Go for a short walk, take a drive, or sit outside on a bench.
8. Bring items to talk about: Some examples include: pictures, videos, cards or drawings from children, objects with great memories to spur conversation.
9. Don’t be afraid of physical contact: You don’t have to talk the whole time - you can just spend time expressing that you care in other ways. Consider going at meal time to share a meal or help with feeding, giving a shoulder or foot massage, a manicure, or just sit quietly and hold hands.
10. Know that just your presence can be a source of comfort and reassurance.
Thank you to Caring.com for these helpful suggestions!
By the GWAAR Legal Services Team