Creating "Visiting Kits"
on a Small Budget
By Myrtle Klauer, ADC, CAP

As residents living in skilled nursing homes become frailer, the
Activity Professionals have to find new ways of involving the residents
in meaningful activities. Visiting kits are a good way to stimulate
conversation within a group or when visiting on a one-to-one basis. These kits are
simple to use and can help a family reconnect with a loved one living in long term care
or help a new volunteer get started as a friendly visitor for the facility.

These excellent reminiscing tools are simple to make and can be put together at little or
no cost. They can be as simple or extravagant as your facility chooses to make them.
The basic premise behind visiting kits is a box filled with articles based on a theme that
contains items from "yesterday" as well as today – a cloth diaper and a disposable
diaper; slate with chalk and pen with paper; medicine bottle with a cork and prescription
bottle with a child-proof cap; etc.

Collecting the items is half the fun. Sit down with your staff and discuss the themes you
would like to make into visiting kits. Make a list of the items that you would like to
include in each kit. Determine what the maximum amount you can pay for the items.
Brainstorm the best places to find such items. Make a “wish list” of things you are
looking for and what you propose to do with the items.

Let the residents, staff, families, and volunteers know what you are looking for by putting
an "ad" in the resident newsletter and posting your “wish list” around the facility. Make
flyers and distribute them to local churches, schools, Laundromats, and local stores.
Be on the lookout for items when going to garage sales and flea markets. Bring along
your business card and sometimes the individual will give you the item for the facility at
no cost or substantially reduce the cost of the item. Always send a thank you for
donated items; this simple gesture can lead to even more "goodies."

Don't forget to add to the types of containers you'll need for putting together the actual
kits to your flyers and wish list. Containers can cost more than you think and add up
quickly. The best container should be clear plastic with an attached lid. The clear plastic
lets everyone see what’s in the box without having to find the side of the box with the
label. Attached lids are important because lids can be laid down and forgotten after an
activity. In a pinch or to get you started, different sized shoe and boot boxes are an
excellent beginning. Sometimes a large basket makes a more appropriate container,
especially for a laundry day theme.

Look for pictures, short stories, and poems representative of the different themes in old
magazines and have the residents cut them out and mount them on cardboard. Cover
these with clear contact paper to preserve and protect them from "wear and tear" or
laminate them if your facility is fortunate enough to have a laminating machine. An
excellence source for this type of material is the Ideals magazine.
Even residents in assisted and supportive living facilities, as well as seniors going to
Senior Centers or enrolled in an Adult Day program enjoy reminiscing and love
exploring the contents of the visiting kits. Once you and your staff get started making
your own visiting kits, the more fun you and the residents will have, even when the
activity staff is not there.

Be sure to leave some visiting kits on the various floors or units for the residents, staff,
volunteers, and families to use when the activity staff is not present. Provide simple
instructions and place the instructions in the area where the visiting kits are kept.
Remember to rotate the kits at least once a month.

Use caution when placing the visiting kits on the various floors or units. You may have
to modify the contents of the kits to assure the safety of the residents living on a
particular floor or unit. For residents with dementia, be sure the kit does not contain
sharp objects, or liquids and small items the residents might ingest by mistake. You
may want to assemble specific visiting kits to be used with residents with dementia or
lack adequate cognition to determine what is safe.

Provide an in-service to the facility staff and volunteers on the subject of, “How to
Enhance Your Visits” through the visiting kits. Volunteer to speak to the Family Council
about the visiting kits. Explain why reminiscing is so important and/or how to use the
kits as conversation starters while visiting a loved one.

Included in this article are some ideas for creating your own visiting kits. Be creative
and expand these lists to make your visiting kits unique and representative of your

Wash Day:
•        Bushel basket
•        Piece of clothesline
•        Clothespins
•        Clothespin holder
•        Washboard
•        Box of starch
•        Small box of Tide or Cheer laundry detergent
•        Bar of lye soap
•        Small bottle liquid Tide or Cheer
•        Fabric soften sheets
•        Picture of washtub
•        Picture of wringer washer
•        Picture of clothes hanging on line to dry
•        Picture of a modern washer and dryer
School Days:
•        Slate
•        White and colored chalk
•        Tablet of penmanship paper
•        Globe
•        Vintage and modern world maps
•        Watercolors
•        Paintbrushes
•        Primary pencils
•        Old text books
•        Pencil sharpener
•        Cigar box
•        Wooden ruler
•        3-ring binder
•        Quill or fountain pen
•        Bottle of ink
•        Calculator
•        Picture of a computer
•        Flair pen
•        Slide-rule
•        Compass
•        Protractor
•        Art-gum eraser
•        Large crayons - primary colors
•        Blunt-nosed scissors
•        Picture of one-room schoolhouse
•        Picture of modern school
•        Garden gloves
•        Trowel & other hand tools
•        Watering can
•        Flower seeds
•        Vegetable seeds
•        Seed catalogs
•        Clay flowerpots
•        Basket with handle
•        Garden shears
•        Peat starter pots
•        Pictures of flower and vegetable gardens
•        Pictures of scarecrows
•        Old/new post cards
•        Old maps
•        Road atlas
•        Old/new vacation brochures
•        Old/new souvenir brochures
•        Vacation pictures
•        Pictures of attractions
•        Pictures of old cars, trains, buses
•        "Treasures" purchased on trips
•        Posters from travel agencies
•        Baseball trading cards
•        Pictures of the "baseball greats"
•        Pictures of some of the old stadiums, e.g., Wrigley Field
•        Pictures of the old & new stadiums
•        Baseball caps from the local team(s)
•        Baseball Pennants
•        Vintage and new baseball programs/score sheets
•        Baseball
•        Bat
•        Catcher's mitt
•        Helmet
•        Umpire gear
•        Measuring spoons
•        Measuring cups
•        Mixing bowls
•        Beaters
•        Wooden spoon
•        Spatula
•        Rolling pin
•        Pastry-cloth
•        Wire-whip
•        Old Betty Crocker cookbook
•        Modern cookbook
•        Recipe box and cards
•        Small iron skillet
•        Pastry blender
•        Vegetable grater
•        Colander
•        Potato Peeler
•        Potato masher
•        Pictures of old-fashioned kitchens
•        Pictures of modern kitchens
•        Catalog of modern appliances
•        Needles
•        Thread (some on wooden spools)
•        Straight pins
•        Measuring tape
•        Thimble – Metal
•        Pincushion
•        Needle threader
•        Pinking Shears
•        Embroidery scissors
•        Ripper
•        Bias tape
•        Seam Binding
•        Scraps of fabric - all types
•        Lace trim
•        Buttons
•        Point Turner
•        Patterns - Vintage & Modern
•        Pictures of vintage and modern sewing machines
•        Ric-Rac braid
•        Zipper - metal and plastic teeth
•        Snaps
•        Hooks & eyes
•        Darning thread
•        Darning needle
•        Darning egg
•        Elastic
•        Old "Tonka" trucks/cars
•        Jacks
•        Jump rope
•        Marbles
•        Rag doll
•        "Storybook" dolls
•        Raggedy Ann and Andy
•        Hand and finger puppets
•        Rubber ball
•        Top
•        Bubbles
•        Matchbox cars
•        Sand pail and shovel
•        Ledger book
•        Adding machine
•        Calculator
•        Mechanical pencil
•        Pocket Protector
•        Adding machine tape
•        Checkbook
•        Bank statements
•        Profit & Loss statement
•        Accounts Payable statement
•        Accounts Receivable statement
•        Budget worksheets
Military Service:
•        Canteen
•        Mess-kit
•        Medals/Ribbons
•        Recruitment posters
•        Caps/hats
•        Buttons/pins
•        Enlistment papers
•        Discharge papers
•        Newspaper articles
•        Pictures of military actions
•        Pictures of vintage and modern airplanes, subs, etc.
•        Pictures of vintage and modern uniforms
•        Kimonos
•        Diaper pins
•        Cloth/disposable diapers
•        Talcum Powder
•        Baby Oil
•        Baby Lotion
•        Plastic pants
•        Old baby bottle
•        New baby bottle
•        Undershirt
•        Knit sleeper
•        Booties
•        Sweater/bonnet
•        Receiving blanket
•        Soaker
•        Rattle
•        Teething-ring
•        Feeding spoon
•        Training cup
•        Bibs
•        Feeding dish
•        Bottle warmer
•        Pictures of babies
•        Catalog of baby equipment
•        Stories/Poems about babies
•        Pictures of vintage cars
•        Model cars - vintage & new
•        Brochures/posters from car dealers
•        Video about new cars
•        Stories/poems about cars
•        Songs about cars - In My Merry Oldsmobile, etc.

Myrtle Klauer is the Secretary/Treasurer of NAAP. She works for the Illinois Council on
Long Term Care as the Director of Resident Services.
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