For residents of long-term care facilities, visits from family and friends are more than just appreciated, they are important for their emotional well-being. In addition to providing an opportunity to stay in touch with loved ones, relive memories, share experiences, and enjoy quality time together, personal visits help reassure them that they remain an important part of your life.
Planning Your Visit
When planning to visit someone in a nursing facility, it is always best to let them know you are coming. Although spontaneous visits are better than no visits at all, keep in mind that most people would prefer knowing ahead of time when to expect a visitor. That way they can anticipate your arrival, be rested and ready, and not have to adjust previously scheduled activities or therapies to accommodate the visit.
Remember, too, that if you are planning to visit during meal times, you should notify the staff in advance so they can make arrangements for you
to dine with the resident.
On the day of your visit, take a few moments to think about your goals for the visit and how to make it a positive experience for both you and the person you are visiting.
What are the person’s needs and interests? What would he or she most enjoy during your visit…
• Reminiscing about the past
• Talking about current events
• Listening to music
• Being read to
• Sharing an activity or meal
• Looking at family photographs
• Being touched or hugged
• Playing a board game
Another benefit of planning ahead is that you can come prepared with a variety of items, such as books, photos, games, CDs or even a musical instrument.
If the facility allows young children or pets, these “small visitors” can often engage even the most withdrawn resident and bring a measure of joy that adult interaction cannot.
Often, a person’s interests, health condition, or mental status will change over time. If you have not visited in a while, you might also want to talk briefly with his or her nurse so you will know what to expect.
During Your Visit
No matter what you have planned, or how little time you have to spend, it is important that you stay focused on the person you are visiting.
Chances are your visit is just one stop in a busy day, so it is easy to be distracted… to think about where you were last, what you will be doing next, or just how hectic your daily routine is. Try to remember that your words and body language can signal even the most unresponsive senior that your attention is elsewhere. Staying attentive during your visit demonstrates that you value your time together.
With this in mind, instead of rushing to visit on your lunch hour, or on your way home from work, set aside a specific day and time, and resolve to spend
it with your loved one at a calm and caring pace.
From time to time and on special occasions, a gift will be appreciated and can also serve as a pleasant reminder of your visit after you leave. However, since space is usually limited in a long-term care facility, a good rule of thumb is to keep your gifts small, simple and personal. Here are a few suggestions:
• A card you or another family member make yourself
• Flowers or a plant
• A book or magazine subscription
• Stationery and stamps
• Personal care items, such as soap or body lotion
• Non-perishable food items (check with the staff first)
Ending Your Visit
Ending a visit is sometimes difficult, especially if you and the person you are visiting do not see each other very often. Here are a few simple techniques to help make parting easier: