While visiting an elder loved one in a nursing home can be an amazing shared experience, it may also be difficult and confusing to navigate. Keep in mind that a nursing home visit is, above all, an opportunity to nurture a close relationship with someone special who needs outside love and care. In fact, regular visits mitigate loneliness which has stunningly negative effects on the elderly. Some studies compare the damage that can arise from senior loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

There is one thing, however, that is better than a simple visit: a successful visit. The difference involves pre-planning and a healthy perspective, rather than the mindset of simply stopping by unannounced “to get it over with”. After all, elder seniors need friends and family to listen to them. They need to be able to express their feelings, thoughts, and concerns with people they trust. They need to be accepted. While visiting loved ones does not mean you have all the answers, you do need to be present and convey acceptance.

That means refraining from negativity and pressure. Do not make nursing home visits about you. Go there to see the elder adult without ulterior motives. If you need to talk about finances, you may, but resist making the visit solely about business. Do not be in a rush, act bored or put a loved one down in any way.  Instead, be present and enjoy tender moments together because there may not be many more opportunities. 

It is recommended to think through a list of conversation items ahead of time, as well as light activities that foster quality connections. Elder residents may not have a lot of new information to share, so be prepared to lead conversations. One important topic is what other family members and friends are doing. Keep the elder person updated and help them feel like they are still very much in the loop. Photo albums and relaxing music also make for pleasant activities. Consider bringing magazines or a book to read. 

Whatever you choose to do, make it about your loved one. Also, be sure to speak with the long-term care facility in advance. They will know your loved one’s schedule so that you can pick a time to visit that is right for him or her. You can also ask if there are any dietary concerns, new health issues, or other things you should be appraised of in advance of your visit.

We know it is not easy to make this visit. Although it is critical to stay engaged with loved ones in long-term care facilities, we know it can be difficult. Know that we are your local elder law firm that is here to support you. We encourage you to set a meeting to discuss these challenges and your concerns with attorney Allen Poucher now, or any time throughout the year.