It’s not uncommon to struggle with what to say or what to do when visiting a loved one in a nursing home, even when that person is someone you love dearly. Even though you aren’t trained as a professional caregiver, the tips below can help you create meaningful visits for your loved one.
Planning a Visit with a Loved One in Long Term Care
Don’t feel overwhelmed or nervous before you go. Use these tips when planning a visit to a relative in long term care.
First, know your loved one’s schedule. Visit at a time of day when your loved one will be the least tired. Take into consideration when he or she may have therapy sessions or takes a nap.
Talk to the staff beforehand. They should be able to provide tips and guidance on the best times to visit, what to expect, things to do and how to make the most of your visit together.
Next, stay updated with family. If you have other family members who visit, create a schedule or system for when you visit and how you will update one another on important information.
Finally, try to put aside any guilt or fear you may be feeling. Some people avoid going into nursing homes because getting older is a reality they don’t want to face, or maybe they feel guilty for not caring for their loved one full-time.
However, it’s important to deal with these feelings so you don’t miss out on quality time together. Try to simply make the visit about your loved one, and focus on how you can make your time together meaningful.
Tips for Visiting Your Loved One in the Nursing Home
When you arrive at the nursing home, try one of the following ideas to help create a visit that is enjoyable for all.
Don’t ask too many “yes” or “no” questions. This can be stressful if they are unsure of the answer and can make it difficult to keep a conversation going. Instead, reminisce about good memories or tell stories about what’s going on in your life and with other family members.
Don’t try to make them remember something. If they don’t recall an event or person, it’s OK. Move on to something else.
Try not to correct them unless absolutely necessary. An underlying medical condition, such as dementia, may cause them to say things that seem irrational. It’s more important to focus on listening to them and spending time together.
Bring things to do together. This can help you avoid feeling pressured to keep a conversation going. Items could include: recent family videos to watch together on a tablet, old photographs or documents, music from years ago, and hand lotion and/or nail polish for a manicure.
Bring children. Young children can bring amazing joy to older adults, even rambunctious toddlers. Whether they’re dancing, singing, hugging or high-fiving, the interaction and entertainment of children can brighten any mood.
Read to your loved one. Whether it’s a favorite book or an article from a military journal, reading aloud can be a powerful way to connect.
Connect through human touch. How you soothe someone through touch depends on the person. Some people would love a back rub while others would feel uncomfortable. Most people like to have their hand held or arm stroked. Massage your loved one’s hand while listening to music.
Go for a walk or drive. Stroll through the nursing home’s courtyard or take your loved one for an outing, even a simple afternoon drive, if they are in a condition to do so.
Ask ahead of time if the nursing home allows pets. If yours is well-behaved and your loved one enjoys animals, see if they could spend time together during your visit.
Don't make a big production about leaving. This can cause unneeded anxiety and negative feelings. Say goodbye just as you would to any other loved one.
Lastly, keep visits simple for both you and your loved one. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your loved one with unneeded pressure or worry. By focusing on the visit as quality time spent together, that should bring out the joy in both of you.
Explore Long Term Care at Maine Veterans’ Homes
Does your loved one qualify for care at Maine Veterans’ Homes? Get the facts and plan for long term care with our free eligibility guide.