After visiting several family members in nursing homes over the past few years, I frequently find myself a bit anxious; before, during and after our visit. Part of me feels guilty that I’m talking about my busy life in the outside world while my family member likely spends their days bored and depressed. Yet, another part of me finds myself asking “is that what I have to look forward to?”
Though probably not discussed as much as it should be, nursing home visits are an important part of the lives of both patient and their friends and family. I recently saw a very good article about the importance of nursing home visits– and just how many of the feelings we experience as visitors are indeed normal.
Martha Bauman’s article in the Sentinel Source, “Visiting nursing homes doesn’t have to be draining” made me feel a lot better about my mixed feelings and provides some terrific tips for anyone planning a visit to a friend or family member in a nursing home. Amongst Ms. Bauman’s suggestions for beneficial nursing home visits:
- Talk about happenings with the family
- Learn about the activities and facilities that the nursing home provides
- Participate in activities at the nursing home
- Get to know the staff and ask about your loved ones care and condition
- Bring photos and basic games to help involve and stimulate your loved one
- When visiting from out of town, try to break up visits over a couple of days
Certainly, these are some suggestions that anyone can benefit from. However, I think one of the broader themes of Ms. Bauman’s article which particularly resonated with me is to modify our expectations of the entire experience. As a spouse, son or friend, it is important to be realistic about your familiy members current condition– they likely are not as active, talkative or energetic as the person we once may have known.
Understanding that the liklihood that these changes will come about is crucial to our visiting expectations and will likely increase the value of the visits for both visitor and family memer and perhaps— do away with some of the feelings of shame and guilt on both ends.
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