Loneliness is a real issue for residents in nursing homes. They are far from their families and everything familiar. Even though they are surrounded by people—residents and staff who sometimes become cherished friends—there is no replacement for family. Family and friends are important for residents’ emotional, and even physical, well-being.
But it’s hard to visit when Grandma is in later stages of dementia and can no longer communicate. You feel uncomfortable and not sure how to fill the silence. Does your presence even make a difference?
The answer is yes. Your loved one is still there underneath the dementia or other illness, and family visits help her connect to the person she used to be. Regular visits from family and friends are essential in keeping that connection alive.
Here are five tips to help you pay a meaningful visit to your loved one:
1. Come at a good time
Schedule and consistency is very important for seniors, especially seniors with dementia. Make sure to come at a time when your visit will not interfere with your loved one’s schedule. The afternoon is usually the best time to visit. In the morning, the staff is busy getting the residents dressed and ready for the day. Your relative may feel uncomfortable if you’re present while they are being attended to. If you’re not sure when the best time to visit is, call ahead to find out. The nurses can also tell you when your loved one is at his or her best.
2. Bring family photos or the local newspaper
Bring along snapshots of people and places in their lives to help residents feel more connected. You can bring family photos to show off, and update your relative on the lives of loved ones. You may want to compile a photo album or scrapbook with both old and new photographs. Your relative can flip through the snapshots when you’re not there, and nurture the connection to his past life. Photos from when he was young are especially helpful, since dementia patients often remember their youth much better than their adult life. You can even personalize her room with family photos, favorite wall art, decorative pillows, and knikknacks that are meaningful to her.
You can also bring the local newspaper from their community and read sections they may be interested in. If Dad was an avid sports fan, you can read the sports news and scores for his favorite teams. Even if your loved one can’t respond, just hearing about topics they used to enjoy may bring them comfort.
3. Go for a stroll
If your relative is up to it, take them on a walk around the facility. If the weather is nice, you can take them outside. Our gardens and patios at the different Regency facilities are stunning year-round, and residents and their guests enjoy sitting outside and imbibing the calming effects of our lovely campuses.
4. Bring children along
Don’t be scared to bring children to the facility. Children are natural icebreakers, and their lack of inhibition helps with awkward moments. Bring along something for them to do, such as a picture book or small project. New readers can practice their reading skills with Grandma, or tell about new things they’ve learned.
5. Touch a lot
Affectionate touch is a basic human need. Most of the touch your loved one is getting, while gentle, is for care and hygiene only. Give them a lot of hugs during your visit. Try massaging his hand gently or giving her a back rub.
Bonus Tip: Act natural
Be yourself, that’s who your relative wants to see. It may be hard to see your loved one’s mental and physical abilities deteriorate, but make sure to act real. Speak slowly and clearly if their hearing is impaired, but don’t patronize them or speak to them like a child. Treat them naturally, with the respect and dignity they deserve!