After moving your parent to an assisted living community, you may have concerns about how to make the most of your visits. When is the best time to visit? How long should the visit last? What will you say or do together? While there’s no single correct answer to these questions, following a few simple guidelines will help you have a successful visit. Here are some helpful tips to consider when planning to visit your parent in assisted living.
If you live near your parent’s assisted living community, it’s a good idea to schedule shorter, more frequent visits. Choose a specific day of the week to visit on a consistent basis. This way, your parent can look forward to seeing you each week. If you live far from your parent’s assisted living community, arranging weekly phone calls or video chats can help you bridge the distance between you and your parent and help you stay connected between in-person visits.
Plan your visit in advance
Before visiting your parent in assisted living, be sure to call their community in advance to verify the best time to stop by. Most older adults like to stick to a daily routine that includes mealtimes and social activities or exercise classes offered by their assisted living community. As a result, dropping in unannounced may disrupt their planned schedule for the day. Older adults may also experience higher energy levels earlier in the day or right after a meal. Speak with caregivers at their assisted living facility to find a visiting time that fits your parent’s schedule.
Bring gifts or activities to enjoy together
Many people are unsure about what they should do when visiting their parent in assisted living. However, worrying about how to spend your visits shouldn’t deter you from visiting in the first place. Try bringing along thoughtful gifts or activities to serve as conversation starters, such as a bouquet of flowers, stuffed animals, manicure supplies, cards or board games, a favorite book or magazine, or even a craft project. Arriving with a gift or activity to share can give your parent a sense of comfort and help make your visit more interactive.
Visiting your parent in assisted living provides opportunities for them to reminisce about the past and share more about their life experiences. Old family photographs, recipe cards, letters, music, or home videos can trigger fond memories and prompt your parent start conversations about their life. Bringing grandchildren to visit can also encourage your parent to talk about the past. Some families find that recording their older loved one’s stories on tape or video is a wonderful way to hold onto treasured memories for years to come.
Try a change of scenery
While you should avoid mixing up your parent’s daily routine, sometimes your parent may want to add some variety to their day. If your parent is well enough to leave his or her assisted living community for the afternoon, make plans to have lunch or dinner at their favorite restaurant, take a shopping trip, or go to a movie or theater performance. You can even take a walk together on an outdoor path at their assisted living facility to birdwatch and experience the sights and sounds of nature.
Be patient, positive, and present
At the end of the day, the most important part of visiting your parent is being together, no matter what you do. Sometimes just sitting together or holding your parent’s hand can be the most meaningful way to pass the time. Be patient with your parent and keep all conversation positive, especially if they are experiencing health changes. Finally, remember to remain fully present during your visit. Silence your phone and resist the temptation to rush through your visit. By slowing down and staying in the moment, you can connect with your parent and make the most of your time together.