Visiting an elderly loved one in a senior living facility can sometimes feel awkward or stressful. Many people make only brief visits, or avoid visiting altogether because of the challenges these visits present, but it's important to remember that loneliness and lack of contact with loved ones can lead to major health issues for the elderly.
Here are some tips to make the most of visits with your elderly loved ones:
- Consult with the Staff
Your loved one may have certain dietary restrictions either due to their own health issues or facility guidelines, so it's important to check with staff before the visit if you're planning to surprise them with food.
- Set the Right Tone
Put yourself in the place of the person you're visiting and think of how you would want to be greeted. Maintain eye contact, give a warm hug or handshake, and don't stand stiffly in front of them but sit down so you're at their level.
- Respect Their Privacy
Always knock first before you enter your loved one’s room, and step out into the hallway when they’re being given personal care by a staff member such as toileting, dressing or bathing. This way, they won't get the feeling that you're treating them as a child. Showing that you respect your older loved one’s privacy helps them retain their dignity and pride.
- Time Your Visit
The best time to visit depends on when your loved one's energy and alertness are at their highest. For many seniors, this tends to be in the morning or after a midday meal. It may even be best to plan to share a meal with them.
- Keep Things Positive
It can be tough to keep up a cheerful attitude when a senior is being argumentative, depressed, or is in pain. Nonetheless, make it your goal to keep a positive, upbeat attitude throughout the visit. Avoid arguing with them and always talk to them with respect.
- Keep it About Them
Visits with elderly loved ones can sometimes bring feelings of sadness and grief, but it's important to set your own feelings aside. Focus on the positives of their day; remember, they may feel sad or awkward, too. Additionally, focus on the "real" person inside of then, not the person whose outer appearance and health may have changed considerably.
- Keep Visits Intimate
You may be tempted to coordinate your visit with other family members or friends, but this isn't always a good idea. A large number of people may be overwhelming for your loved one, and it's always best to ask first if you can invite other people to visit with you. And if you bring children, make sure they’re well behaved and understand the rules of the facility.
- Change of Scenery
Visiting your loved one in a place other than their room can be a mood-booster for both of you. There may be a courtyard or garden at the senior living community, or you might consider leave the premises and taking a drive to check out some local scenery together.
- Bring Props
You can take some of the pressure off of yourself - and your loved one - as well as liven up the visit by bringing along meaningful objects such as a family photo album, some of your loved one’s favorite music, collectibles, etc.
- Shorter Visits Are Often Better
The length of your visit will often be determined by your loved one’s health and energy level, as well as how the visit is progressing. But, oftentimes, shorter visits are better. A half-hour of warm connection will be treasured more than a couple hours of silence and awkwardness.
- Communicate Clearly
Nearly half of people aged 75 and older have hearing problems
, making it crucial for you to communicate clearly. You may have to raise your voice - but not shout - and it's helpful to turn off the radio or other background noise while you’re talking with your loved one.
Also, keep your faces at the same level and be aware of your non-verbal communication, such as checking your phone every few minutes - which your loved one may interpret as a sign that you'd rather be someplace else.
- Promise to Visit Again Soon
Letting your loved one know that you’ll visit again soon will boost their spirits and help keep them from feeling lonely or down when you have to leave. Like most people, you probably lead a busy life, but a good rule of thumb is to visit your loved one at least once a month.