How to Make Visits Meaningful!
Suggestions for families when visiting low functioning residents

[
The holiday season will soon be upon us.  Following is an article
we ran over two years ago.  It features ways your family members
can make their visits more meaningful for your low functioning
residents. I hope this will be of help as the number of visits begin
to increase. - Robert Lucas, Editor, Activity Director Today E-magazine
]

Often times as residents decline they loose the ability to communicate. Sadly, this is a
time when families stop visiting as often
because they don’t know what to say or how to make the visits meaningful for the family
as well as the resident. Facility staff must be proactive in providing in-services to
families on what they can do to enhance the visits. Sometimes, just being present can
be satisfying. Here are some tips for the families.

1. Visit with your loved one in the facility sensory room.
2. Prepare for the visit ahead of time. Bring items of interest to the resident. For
example; if the resident had a love of pets, you
could bring your family pet to visit. If the resident had a love of a certain kind of music,
bring a cd to play while in the room.
3. Talk with your loved one about events going on in the community or family. Don’t
assume they can’t understand. Just hearing your voice will bring comfort and keep
them connected with the outside world.
4. Bring their favorite foods and spices for the visit. Make sure to adhere to the diet
recommended by the dietitian and physician.
5. Reminisce about past life experiences. Bring in old family photographs. They may
enjoy just listening to your memories. If they are able to respond, this may spark a
memory.
6. On their calendar, take a high lighter and mark the date of your next visit. This will
remind them that you are returning for
another visit.
7. Personalize their room. Now is the time they need the most stimulation. Look how
you can make their room pretty while at the same time reflecting their personality. You
could put up sports banners if they were into sports. Add family photos, pictures on the
walls, cd player at bedside with favorite CD’s, plants, decorator pillows and pretty
afghans, nick knacks that are meaningful to them, lotions and perfumes / colognes,
fake fish tanks (real ones is someone can take care of it), wind chimes over the bed.
Provide reading materials for those who visit, can read while in the room.
8. Read to the resident. Bring a book of their favorite author and read to the resident.
9. Bring flowers from your garden.
10. Aroma therapy. You can purchase candle warmers and electric aroma therapy
machines. Use smells that they would like. Be aware that medications can make them
nauseas, so light smells such as lavender may be preferred.
11. Provide hand massages and back rubs. Often times the touch they received is by
care providers. Having a massage can be
really uplifting, especially when being touched by a loved on.
12. Include children in the visit. Bring things for the children to do. It could be a children’
s book that the child can read to the resident. If there animals or bird cages in the
facility, plan your visits there.
13. Don’t be afraid to laugh and share humorous stories. Bring funny cartoons and
funny stories to share. It’s ok to laugh.
14. Bring cassette tapes of the religious services from their local church. Share the
church bulletin with them.
15. Bring the local community paper and read what’s happening in the local community
they are from. They want to still feel
connected to their community.
16. Share events happening in your family.
17. Read poetry.
18. Share a meal with them. Many facilities allow families to purchase a meal and eat
with the loved on in the dining room.
19. Residents enjoy feeling pretty. You could do a makeup session or fix their hair. You
can bring pretty nail polish and do a
manicure.
20. Share a scrapbook or photo album.
19. Take the resident for a stroll. There is nothing like a visit outside. Many facilities
have lovely patios. Visit with your loved one outside.
21. If the resident is able to take a drive in the car, take the resident on short outings.
Suggestions would be a ride around the
community, zoo, restaurant, park, church, local store or a pet shop. Call ahead to make
sure the destination is wheel chair
accessible.
22. Bring to family gatherings, such as weddings, holiday dinners and religious events.
23. Bring games they enjoyed, cards, checkers, chess, word puzzles.
24. Bring crafts they enjoyed, such as yarn, cross stitch, etc.
25. Bring a video of family events such as weddings, graduations, baseball games,
dance recitals, or share a video with them of a movie you enjoyed.
26. If they liked to read but now are unable, purchase books on tape.
27. Begin a project that you can work on each time you come. For example, if they loved
to garden, you could begin a flower press book and dry the flowers. Once they are dried
you could make a collage together and hang the picture on the wall.
28. Assist the resident with writing a letter.
29. Help fulfill their final wishes. It may be contacting a long lost friend, or giving away a
valuable. Listen to “what they want” and don’t make judgments. There are organizations
that grant last wishes of the elderly. It may a hot air balloon or a dinner with all of their
loved ones.
30. Exercise with them. There are several video tapes for elderly in wheel chairs. It
could be simple arm lifts, walk or hand
exercises.
31. Place calendars in their room with large clocks. Don’t assume they can’t tell time.
32. Hug a lot
33. Create a tactile blanket with different textures and items of interest to touch
34. Bring items related to the season, such as pumpkins, poinsettias, spring flowers.
35. Decorate their room for the seasons, with decorations and scents specific to the
holiday or season. Take down old
decorations.
36. Bring fresh fruits and vegetables.
37. If the facility has a community kitchen, cook a meal together. Some facilities have
activity rooms where you could have a large family gathering.
38. Visit when the resident is dressed. Follow the nursing homes schedule for visits.
Generally it is better to visit in the afternoon. In the morning, many facilities are busy
providing care and getting residents dressed. Phone ahead to let the staff know you’re
coming. Follow through, if you say your coming, please show up when you said you
would. Always knock before entering the room. Always announce who you are. With
dementia, they may forget your face. Feelings are the last to go, they may feel terrible if
you say, “mom, this is Sally”. But instead you could say, “Hi Ruth, my name is Sally and I
came to visit with you.”
39. Get to know the staff. Find out what’s new about your loved one. It helps if you know
the staffs name and introduce the resident to other residents. Let them express their
feelings and accept them. They just need someone to listen. You don’t have to have all
the answers. Your presence is present enough. Enjoy the time you do have and the
tender moments together. Try to leave negativity at home. Make your visits joyful and
pleasurable. Don’t rush in, act bored, put down the resident, make them feel guilty
about their health, or act like you would rather be somewhere else. They know!

If you plan what you will be doing before your visit, you will have a successful and
rewarding experience.

Reprinted from
Long Term Care Newsletter,
March 2005,
Alternative Solutions in
Long Term Care
Pathways to the Past
by Sandra Stimson ADC, CALA, CDP
Executive Director,
Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care
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