More Advice About Holiday Visiting

Early this month we wrote a blog called “Visiting a Loved One in a Nursing Home,” which talked about the nuts and bolts of holiday visits—what gifts to bring, what to check in advance, and when a visit should be delayed.

Today’s blog deals with the more personal side of visiting a loved one in a nursing home or hospital. This advice, from Carol Abaya of The Sandwich Generation, holds true all the time, not just during the holidays.

Advice for a Successful Visit

  • For someone who is confined to a nursing home or hospital, time is the best gift you can give. As Carol Abaya says, “Time is the essence of caring. And the physical presence of a close relative can have positive effects on the emotional health of the person being visited.
  • Enter the room quietly and talk softly to the patient. While spreading cheer in the rest of the world might mean loud greetings and shouts, people in a nursing home respond better to quiet energy.
  • People who are elderly or sick may have a difficult time following complicated sentences or multiple speakers. Let one person talk at a time, and speak in short sentences.
  • Don’t interrupt or rush the patient to finish a thought. This can take practice and patience, but it will make the patient feel like an important part of the conversation.
  • Talk about positive events in your life…leave complaints, anger, or fear outside. And don’t talk about anyone else’s illness.
  • On the other hand, if the patient wants to talk about important but potentially sad topics, join that conversation at the same emotional level. And don’t try to impose false happiness on a difficult situation. For example, people who are dealing with a terminal illness know that they are very sick and they don’t like for visitors to press false optimism.
  • If the patient wants to talk about happier memories, encourage it and chime in with memories of your own.
  • Don’t feel the need to fill in every moment with chatter. Sometimes just sitting quietly and watching a TV show together can be more valuable to the patient than hours of talk.
  • Don’t overstay your visit. For a very sick person, 15 minutes may be enough time. Unless you know the person well and just want to sit quietly in the room, don’t ever plan to stay longer than about 45 minutes. Any longer than that may tire the person too much for the visit to be enjoyable.

To read more information about caring for elderly loved ones, visit The Sandwich Generation.

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