Making the Most of a Nursing Home Visit
Moving a relative into long-term care often brings relief to families struggling to care for an aging relative while attending to other responsibilities. While some families may assume that new friends and activities at the nursing home replace their involvement, more often than not, this is not the case.
Experts caution that families should make sure their loved one stays connected to life outside the nursing home. They should include their relatives on outings to family functions, restaurants or cultural events. When a loved one's condition makes this impossible, there are other ways to nurture family ties.
According to experts at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, visits actually provide an opportunity for growth in family relationships.
It is important to remember that successful nursing home visits do not always happen naturally. Families often express frustration. But, if they come open to seeing their loved one in a new way, visits can be more successful. Family members often need to adjust their expectations of a loved one as they grow older and their condition changes. Remaining open to seeing a loved one in a new way can help a visit be more fulfilling.
Many families have busy lives and just don't seem to have enough time for frequent visits. Combining visits can help alleviate this problem. Sharing a meal is one way of doing this. Timing can make a difference, too.
Finally, families, residents and staff stress the importance of getting to know the nursing home community. Doing so builds a sense of connectedness that fosters meaningful dialogue and adds enjoyment to visits.
Tips for Successful Visits
For loved ones who are alert, HRC experts recommend the following to help make visits more fulfilling:
- Keep loved ones connected to the outside world with news about neighbors, family, friends and current events. Talk in a quiet place. Try to be at eye level with your relative, and speak slowly and clearly.
- Encourage reminiscing. Bring photos or objects to share. Stimulate conversation about past achievements. If your loved one always tells you the same story, accept this. It's your listening that shows you still care.
- Sometimes, it's enough to just sit and hold hands.
- Empathize with a loved one's feelings of distress. Don't deny its existence or argue with your loved one, who may be confused. This only gets them more agitated, and can cause a loss of self-esteem.
- Don't use visits to give advice, scold or argue with your loved one.
When your loved one is too ill to speak:
- Hold hands; provide touch by gently rubbing your loved one's back.
- Sing songs or play tapes of your loved one's favorite music.
- If you can, just sit and share being there, without feeling like you have to do or say something.
- Get to know other residents, staff and families to make your visits more pleasurable.