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The Alternative Solutions Page
Copyright 2004-PRESENT
The Activity Director's Office
All rights reserved
How to Make Visits Meaningful!
Suggestions for families when visiting low functioning residents.
By Sandra Stimson ADC, CALA, CDP
Executive Director,
Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care

Sandra Stimson has experience
as a corporate consultant,
Corporate Trainer and National
Speaker. Her experience is in
long term care, as Activity
Director, Director of Alzheimer's
Units and Assistant
Administrator of a 550 bed long
term care county home.  She is
Co-founder of Pet Express Pet
Therapy Club, is a Life Replay
Specialist.  Sandra implements
dementia units nationwide.  
Sandra has written several
books, Volunteer Management
Essentials for Long Term Care
and Pet Express Pet Therapy
Program. Sandra has been a
facilitator for Alzheimer's support
groups and is the Awards Chair
for the NJ Association of Activity
Professionals.  Sandra is the
Executive Director of
Council of Certified Dementia

Alternative Solutions in Long
Term Care offers resources for
health care professionals in
many areas of dementia care,
care plans, Snoezelen products,
dementia activity calendars,
adult day care calendars,
sensory calendars, reminisce
videos for dementia, activity
books, and dates to remember,
party supplies,
resources and links.
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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. Don’t be afraid to laugh and share humorous stories. Bring funny cartoons and funny stories to share. It’s ok to laugh.
12. Bring cassette tapes of the religious services from their local church. Share the church bulletin with them.
13. 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.
14. Share events happening in your family.
15. Read poetry.
16. Share a meal with them. Many facilities allow families to purchase a meal and eat with the loved on in the dining room.
17. Residents enjoy feeling pretty. You could do a makeup session or fix their hair. You can bring pretty nail polish and do a
18. 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
20. 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
21. Bring to family gatherings, such as weddings, holiday dinners and religious events.
22. Bring games they enjoyed, cards, checkers, chess, word puzzles.
23. Bring crafts they enjoyed, such as yarn, cross stitch, etc.
23. 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.
24. If they liked to read but now are unable, purchase books on tape.
25. 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.
26. Assist the resident with writing a letter.
27. 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.
28. Exercise with them. There are several video tapes for elderly in wheel chairs. It could be simple arm lifts, walk or hand
29. Place calendars in their room with large clocks. Don’t assume they can’t tell time.
30. Hug a lot
31. Create a tactile blanket with different textures and items of interest to touch
32. Bring items related to the season, such as pumpkins, poinsettias, spring flowers.
33. Decorate their room for the seasons, with decorations and scents specific to the holiday or season. Take down old
34. Bring fresh fruits and vegetables.
35. If the facility has a community kitchen, cook a meal together. Some facilities have activity rooms where you could have a large
family gathering.
36. 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.”
37. 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