When your parent (relative/old friend) moves into senior living, you may have some questions about how best to handle your visits.
- How often should you visit?
- How long should the visit be?
- Is there a limit to how many people should visit at one time?
- What are some good things to do during the course of a visit?
- What are some things you can bring with you during your visit?
There’s not one specific answer to any of those questions, but there are visitor guidelines for senior living that can be helpful, depending upon various factors such as the type of setting your parent is residing in, your parent’s personality, and how far away you live.
Keep It Small
Usually small groups—up to three people—are best for visits to your parent in senior living. You can have better conversations with your parent if you try to keep it one-on-one or one-on-two.
If your parent tends to get a bit confused or has some dementia, you may want to limit the visitors at any given time so as not to cause them confusion or make the conversation difficult to follow.
Use common sense, regarding how many people can comfortably fit in your parent’s living space, as a guide.
Maybe you want to have a larger group for a birthday or other special day. In that case, you can meet with your loved one in a setting outside their room or apartment such as in a lounge area or a room that can be reserved for family events and parties.
Short, More Frequent Visits
If you live in the same city as your loved one, then short but frequent visits are probably the best way to go. Rather than an hour-long visit once or twice a week, a visit of 30 to 45 minutes three or four times a week would likely be more appreciated. Visiting more frequently is a way to give your parent something to look forward on various days throughout the week. For some, a shorter visit may be less fatiguing than a longer visit.
You don’t have to visit every day. On the days you don’t visit, you can check in with your parent by phone. When you do visit, pick a time when they will not be involved in an activity or having a meal. Late mornings or late afternoons are usually the best time. Evenings are usually not so good–the residents are tired and ready to call it a day.
If you live out of town, then you’ll want to make the most of your visits. You’ll want to spend more time each day then just a quick half hour. You could plan to have meals with them in the dining room or take them out for lunch. You could join them in an activity or game (bingo is always fun) or watch TV together—in other words, experience her day with her. She will be so proud to ‘show you off’.
What to Do During Your Visit.
Visiting your parent in senior living can be something that you do every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 2pm. Or, you can vary it each time. Many family members find it is easier to call half an hour before they come to say they’re on the way. Otherwise their parent is pacing in the front lobby!
Maybe you might want to give your parent a reprieve from routine. For instance, try bringing in lunch to give your parent a break from the daily menu. Perhaps bringing in Chinese food or a pepperoni pizza would be a nice change of pace. Go over the posted menu each week with your mom or dad, and ask which day they would prefer for you to bring in food.
When you visit, talk about what’s going on in your life. Your parent wants to feel a part of the family– that you are still connected with them. Show them pictures of the family–better yet, bring family members over to see them.
If it’s a nice day, then going outside to enjoy your lunch or just a leisurely stroll through an outdoor courtyard could be a welcome diversion from the norm. If your parent’s strong enough to leave the grounds, then an occasional outing for lunch, shopping, a movie or a theater performance is another way to add some variety to a visit.
Try to reach out in more ways. If your vision-impaired dad enjoys you reading to him from the newspaper or a favorite book during your visit, then you should certainly do that. If your memory-impaired mother enjoys looking at photo albums or short videos of your family, then that’s a routine that would be much appreciated.
And of course, when you stop in–you can connect with staff as to how your parent is doing- especially-if there have been health issues. Visiting your parent’s residence on a regular basis is a great way to get a progress report on his or her health and well-being.
Community Family Events
Most senior communities will hold events that they encourage family members to attend–Mother’s Day, Family Picnic, Christmas party, etc. Your parent may say they don’t care if you come–but they really do. If there is a way that you can attend–your parent will be so pleased. In addition, if there are weekly activities such as family bingo night or classic movie night that you know your mom enjoys, you can stop by during that activity and participate along with her.
The important part of any visit is to make a connection with your parent. Many times, you can do that in the way you’ve always done it before—by talking, sharing photos, or just being together. If cognitive or physical decline has made that more difficult, then sometimes just holding your loved one’s hand and being together are all that’s needed.
Use your loved one’s cues to plan a visit that’s meaningful—and those visits will become just as important to you as they are to this person you love so much.