Make a loved one's stay in care enjoyable

By  Lisa Petsche
  • November 28, 2008
{mosimage}Many people find visiting someone in a nursing home an uncomfortable experience, at least initially. They don’t know what to expect or what to say and do.

If you are planning to call on a friend or relative in long-term care over the next few weeks, follow these suggestions to help ensure positive interactions.
  • Phone ahead to find out the best time to visit.

  • Position yourself at eye level, face to face. Ensure you are close enough and speaking loudly enough that the person can adequately see and hear you. Check that hearing aids are in place and working properly.

  • Actively listen to what the person has to say. Express interest in their daily activities and allow them to express their feelings about their situation. They may feel wistful at this time of year.

  • Share news about family and friends (bring photos) and current events (bring a newspaper or newsmagazine).

  • If you run out of conversation topics, hang out in the lobby and observe the comings and goings. You don't have to fill every moment with talk.

  • Decorate the person's room using window clings, garland, a small nativity scene or a miniature Christmas tree.

  • Bring homemade treats and eggnog or cider, and enjoy a festive snack together. Do check with nursing staff regarding dietary restrictions before you bring in anything.

  • Reminisce about past Christmases. Share special memories, bring in photo albums or favourite music, read aloud a holiday story or Bible passage, or watch home movies or a classic holiday film.

  • Check the recreational activities schedule for special events, such as a visiting choir, and accompany the person you visit to one of them. Also check if there's a Mass you could attend together.

  • Pamper the person. Give a manicure, set hair or give a hand or foot massage.

  • Help them make a gift, such as a photo collage, for someone special.

  • Help them write a letter to a faraway friend.

  • Play a card game or board game.

  • Bring your pet in to visit (find out the facility's policy first).

  • Bring children or grandchildren with you. Ensure adult supervision at all times for youngsters.

    Visiting regularly will help you become comfortable with your friend or relative in the new environment, and reassures the person that they are still valued. Telephone between visits if you can't get in as often as you would like.

If you wish to give a Christmas gift, here are some ideas to consider, depending on the person's situation.

  • Toiletries such as moisturizing lotion; bar soap and deodorant; a toothbrush and toothpaste or denture cleaner; conditioning shampoo;
    facial tissue; a comb or hairbrush and hair accessories; cologne; talcum powder; lipstick and nail polish; a hand mirror.

  • Apparel such as track suits, pyjamas or nightgowns and socks. Consider adaptive clothing – such as Velcro-closing dresses and shirts – which can make dressing much easier. All items should be easy-care.

  • A throw for the bed or a lap blanket.

  • Velcro-closing running shoes or slippers with non-skid soles.

  • A  reacher (from a medical supply shop) for  picking up  things off the floor or retrieving  items on  high shelves.

  • Writing paper and envelopes  or a set of all-occasion cards, along with a book of postage stamps.

  • Hearing aid batteries.

  • A large photo calendar reflecting a favourite interest such as pets, gardening or sports.

  • Family photos, framed or assembled in an album. Use labels to identify individuals, and include the date each photo was taken.

  • Newspaper or magazine subscription.

  • Large print or talking (audiotaped) Bible.

  • A plant that requires minimal care.

  • A small radio or  a CD player and favourite music.

  • Favourite food items. Bring enough so the person can share with roommates or caregivers if he or she wishes.

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