You spent hours researching, touring, and comparing senior living options before finding the right fit for your parent. Now that your mother or father has made the move to an assisted living community and settled in, it’s time to visit them in their new space for the first time.
The first few visits with your parent might feel a little uncomfortable. Some adult children worry they’ll run out of things to say or activities to do. But don’t let the fear of awkward moments keep you from visiting your parent regularly. Visits are so important, especially when your loved one is first settling into their new home. Spending time together will give you opportunities to bond with your parent and show them that you love and support them.
If you’re getting ready to visit a parent in assisted living, here are five tips to help make the experience one to remember:
Plan your visit in advance
Before paying your parent a visit, call ahead and ask the senior living community about the best time to stop by. Your parent may be used to a certain routine that includes mealtimes, social events, and activities, so dropping in unannounced isn’t usually advised. If you want to join your parent for a meal or participate in one of the planned activities of the day, be sure to ask the community ahead of time.
It’s always a good idea to bring along something you can share with your parent during your visit. It could be family photos or scrapbooks, music, favorite books and movies, and cards, games, or puzzles. Planning your visit around a shared activity is a great way to break the ice and keep the conversation flowing naturally.
Go on a short outing
We can all use a change of scenery from time to time. Ask your parent if they would like to go on a brief outing to a local restaurant, shopping center, park, movie theater, or museum. Maybe you could attend a live theatre or music performance together. If the weather is favorable, explore their senior living community’s outdoor courtyard, garden, or walking paths.
Be a good listener
During your visit, you might be tempted to fill any moment of silence with conversation. However, don’t forget the value of listening. Ask your parent about their day, as well as the friends and activities or hobbies they’re enjoying in the senior living community. Looking at family photos, scrapbooks, letters, and even old recipe cards may encourage your parent to open up and share stories about their life. Inviting grandchildren to visit can also prompt your parent to share stories from the past. These storytelling opportunities can be priceless, which is why many families like to preserve their loved one’s stories by recording them on tape or video.
Make your visits frequent and consistent. Try picking a specific day of the week to visit. This way, your parent will know when to expect you. You don’t need to stay for hours on end; 45 minutes to one hour is a nice amount of quality time to spend together. If you don’t live close enough to the senior living community to visit every single week, be sure to stay connected with phone calls or video chats.
Remember, the most important part of visiting your parent is being together, no matter what you do! By staying in the moment, you can bond with your parent and spend meaningful time together.