The holidays are upon us now and with that comes the time of year when families make trips to visit their loved ones. I often get questions from family members who want to know how to have a good visit with their older family member. Whether they live at home, or in an assisted living community or skilled nursing setting, here are some tips to make the visit go well.
- Figure out the best time of the day for a visit. Know what time meals are, and unless you’ve made plans to visit during a meal, avoid those times. Late morning and early afternoon tend to be best times, especially if your loved one has dementia.
- Limit the number of guests at one time. While your loved one wants to see everyone, don’t all go at once. It’s overwhelming to have a room full of family. Start by coming in small groups of 3-4 at the most and stagger your visits so they are not one right after another.
- Schedule your visit around an event if you feel like conversation might be hard. If your loved one lives in an assisted living or skilled setting, look at the calendar and see what’s going on that day and plan to visit during an activity they might enjoy. That can take the pressure off of trying to have a long conversation.
- Plan to gently remind your loved one who you are when you first arrive. Don’t put them on the spot, or make a big deal of it. I try to introduce myself to staff in front of my loved one, that way if they’ve forgotten my name, the introduction to the staff helps them.
- If you want to bring a gift, try to think of something that can be used up, or is small in size. Our loved ones have limited space. If you’re bringing food, make sure you know if they have any dietary restrictions such as low sugar or no added salt. I avoid any chocolates that are chewy as they can be choking hazards or pull out fragile dental work.
- If you’re bringing children, I suggest bringing along something for them to do during the visit. When my children were younger I had them make cards for their loved one while there. Now that they’re older, we often bring puzzles and games when we visit their great grandmother.
Most of all, have fun. These are precious times for you and your loved one. Take pictures and send them along to them. They will enjoy reminiscing about your visit and bragging about how wonderful their family is. Happy Holidays!