7 things to do when you visit your elderly parent
Visiting an elderly parent in a nursing home or even those still at home can be difficult, especially when you live far away. Here’s a list of some things to do on a visit to get the most out of your time together.
1. Give them priority
It’s hard to tune out the rest of the world with our constantly plugged in culture. If at all possible, for the duration of your visit, leave the smartphone alone. Give your elderly parent your full attention. It will be noticed.
2. Do what brings them joy
Don’t assume that you know what your parent wants, or likes, to do. The best way to determine what the person your visiting wants to do is to ask. You may need to coax it out of them, but they’ll likely tell you what they would like to do with your time spent together. It may be as simple as playing checkers or going out to lunch.
3. Find topics of interest
It’s sad to say, but many don’t visit their aging parents in nursing homes because they are afraid they won’t know what to say. In advance of your visit, prepare topics to talk about. Be willing to take the lead in the conversation and introduce new topics until you hit on one of interest.
4. Bring photos, take photos
Photographs of fond times can be a treasure. These photos will likely spark stories and conversation more easily than asking about events. When spending time with your elderly parent, bring a camera, too. If something happens that your relative would be fond of remembering during your visit — such as a hug from a grandson — the photo can be kept and the event revisited.
5. Be willing to change topics
One of the sad realities of nursing homes is that people are often there due to declining health. It’s easy to get bogged into ruminating on declining health. While it’s important to hear your parent out, there may come the time to change the subject. Remind your parent of happier times or the good things that they still have in their life.
6. Keep in mind that short visits might be enough
You may think you need to stay all day to make your elderly parent happy, but it’s just as likely that they may get tired with company for this duration of time. Check with them and see how long they’d like you to visit. If they’re not sure, you can monitor them for signs of fatigue like sitting very still, short responses or glazed eyes. Stop the visit before you wear them or yourself out.
7. Ask them what they want when you can’t visit
There’s no substitution for your company, but compromises may need to be made. Ask your relative what they’d prefer from you when you can’t visit. Are there special care items that they’d like to get in the mail? Do they prefer a scheduled phone call or written letters?
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