Visiting a Friend or Loved One in a Skilled Nursing Facility
During the holidays, most of us make every effort to spend time with the people we love. We cook, clean the house and wrap presents. We brave busy airports to join family who live out of town for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa—whatever celebrations that are meaningful to us. And if we have a friend or loved one who lives at Charlesgate or another nursing home or other care community, many of us make time for a special visit if the person’s health does not permit them to leave the facility.
Here are some tips for having a meaningful visit, both during the holidays and year-round.
Before your visit
Should you plan ahead for visits, or just drop in? Surprises are fun, but keep in mind that your loved one would probably prefer knowing ahead of time when to expect you. That way they can look forward to the visit. And they can be rested and ready, with no other scheduled activities or therapy to conflict with the visit.
You will also need to know the center’s current visiting hours and follow their COVID-related protection/vaccination rules.
Checking in with staff
As part of your visit, it is often a good idea to check in with staff. Your support and personal involvement will always be appreciated. And your knowledge of the person you are visiting helps the care team understand the resident’s unique needs and feelings.
During your visit
During your visit, one quality will stand above all the rest—that of being completely focused on your visit and the person you are visiting.
Chances are that your visit is one stop in a busy day. It is easy to be distracted by where you were last, or what you’ll be doing next. Without really thinking about it, you might express to the person you’re visiting just how busy you are. This may make them feel like you aren’t fully present during your visit.
Staying focused and attentive shows that you value your visits—that you enjoy them as much as the person you are visiting does. It shows that your visit isn’t simply an obligation.
This is the time of year that most of us like to give and receive gifts. Remember, though, that space is usually limited in a nursing facility, so the best rule of thumb is to keep gifts small, simple, and personal. Here are some suggestions:
- A card with a meaningful message—this can be one you purchase or make yourself
- Flowers or a plant
- Books, either hard copy or electronic
- Lotions or other toiletries
- A handmade quilt
- Comfortable, adaptive clothing that is machine washable (talk to staff about labeling clothes)
- Nonperishable food items (but check with staff first)
Talk to staff ahead of time if you have questions about gifts you would like to bring.
Ending your visit
Ending a visit can be difficult. Many residents and guests find that using the last few minutes to plan the next visit, or to talk about upcoming activities or events at the facility, is a useful way to ease the transition and lessen the awkwardness of parting from a loved one. Staff can give you additional suggestions if saying goodbye is a problem.