As the holidays near, many of us will be visiting loved ones at a senior care facility. If you don’t visit often, or if you are bringing grandchildren or great-grandchildren along, it may be difficult to keep the conversation going and ensure that everyone has a good time.
To make everyone’s experience more enjoyable, here are some tips for visiting your loved one at a senior care facility during the holidays or any time!
- Call ahead to work out a date and time for your visit. This is an important step in any social visit that we sometimes skip in our eagerness to find a time that works with our busy lives. It can be tempting to just “drop by” as your schedule allows. However, your loved one will also have their own routine and scheduled visits with friends, or even classes or workshop that they attend. Calling ahead is both respectful of their time and their dignity.
- Plan your visit around a shared activity. If you don’t have a few planned activities in mind when you come to visit your loved one, you might end up sitting awkwardly around a table staring at each other! The best way to coordinate a visit is to plan a shared activity, like putting together a puzzle, playing a board game, or even a family video game like Wii Bowling. Take your loved one out to lunch or dinner, go on a short shopping trip, or visit a park. Planning a visit around an activity is a great way to keep the conversation flowing without it feeling forced. Bringing photo albums or sharing family stories is another great way to break the ice.
- Make time to go over your loved one’s care plan, but keep it low key. While you may be eager to make this a “working” visit where you delve into aspects of your loved one’s care, ensure that these conversations don’t dominate the visit. It’s possible to assess you loved one’s health while they interact with the grandchildren or great-grandchildren, and check in with caregivers after the visit. You want your visit to be a positive experience for everyone. If there are difficult care decisions that need to be made, these should be discussed between you and your loved one during a separate visit.
- Be a good, mindful listener. It can be tempting to try and fill the silence with talk about your life and the lives of your children, but be sure to practice good listening skills, too. Ask about your loved one’s friends, as well as activities and hobbies. Ask about their needs and whether or not there’s anything you can do for them while you are visiting.
- Respect your loved one’s health and energy. Try not to get months of catching up done in a single visit. While your loved one likely enjoys your company, they aren’t as young as they used to be, and a few hours’ visit may be all they have the energy for this time around. It’s much better to have frequent short visits than long visits with many months in between.