If you have a loved one in long-term care, it can be challenging to make time to visit. But although the scheduling may be difficult, regular visits are important. Not only is it a good way to check up on their care, but it will help lift their mood and remind them that they have meaningful connections and people who love them.
Before you visit, it’s a good idea to have a game plan to ensure it’s as successful and uplifting as possible. Here are 10 tips for a fun and relaxing visit.
- Select the Best Time of Day for Them
We all get busy, so you might find yourself wanting to just drop by when it’s convenient. But that might catch your loved one off guard and at a bad time. It’s a good idea to coordinate with their caretakers and find out when they have the most energy and are typically up for a visit. This way, your loved one can look forward to your visit and prepare for your arrival.
- Know How Many People Should Visit
It might be easy for your loved one to get overwhelmed by too many visitors at once. Pay special attention to how they’re acting during the visit – are they agitated or tired? Some people, especially those with dementia, may do better with shorter visits and fewer people. However, others may enjoy longer visits where you can do activities together.
- Be Prepared with Appropriate Activities
Be ready to arrive with some ideas for different activities. Some ideas include:
- Looking through photos
- Listening to music
- Going outside
- Enjoying a meal together
- Reading a book or the news aloud
- Watching a favorite TV show or movie
- Helping them write a letter or email to friends and family
- If your loved one is up for it, you can also try manageable outings, walks and games.
- You could even consider bringing in a pet to really lift their spirits.
- Create a Calm Environment
It’s common for older adults to be easily agitated or distracted by a loud environment. In addition, if there’s too much noise, it will be more difficult for them to hear you and successfully interact. When you visit, make sure to lower the volume of radios, TVs and any other background noise. If you’re in a common room, try to move to a quiet corner or a more private space.
- Show Affection
Older adults in long-term care likely no longer have the benefit of human touch. If your loved one gives you their consent, it’s a nice gesture to show them affection by holding hands, hugging or stroking their back or arm. You could also offer a gentle hand massage or back rub. Make sure to pay attention to their reaction to ensure they remain comfortable.
- Let Them Express Their Feelings
Just like anyone else, people in long-term care need to be heard. Sometimes they just need someone to listen and accept their feelings. Should they express negative feelings or dissatisfaction, it’s important to respond without judgment or frustration. Remember to treat your loved one as an equal in the conversation and acknowledge their emotions and situation.
- Go with Their Flow
You will likely find that your loved one won’t be in the same frame of mind during every visit. When you arrive, make sure to take note of how they are that day – physically, emotionally and mentally. Depending on their condition, you can tailor your approach and activities. If they want to talk, let them talk as you listen and validate their feelings. If they’re not being particularly verbal, perhaps it’s a good idea to just listen to music or watch a movie. Just let them lead the way and remember that you’re there for them.
- Spruce Up Their Room
You could use your visits to periodically freshen up your loved one’s room. A few ways you can do this are:
- Bring in pictures and memorabilia to remind them of friends and family
- Decorate for the seasons/holidays
- Supply them with an easy-to-use CD or other music player and their favorite music
- Adorn the room with pretty decorations, blankets or framed photos
- Brighten up the room with flowers
- Begin an Ongoing Project
Your loved one will look forward to your visits even more if you engage in a certain activity each time. For example, if they love to scrapbook, you could bring new supplies each time and help them decorate a new page. You could also start a puzzle or a good book together.
- Set Up Your Next Visit
It might be difficult for your loved one to say goodbye at the end of each visit. You can help to ease their sadness or anxiety by making sure they know when you’ll be back. Consider putting a calendar on their wall and circling the next time you’ll visit. It’s important for them to know they can count on you returning.
If you’re looking for long-term care for a loved one, contact us to learn more about our facility and how we can help you through the transition process and beyond.