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There is never a wrong time to visit a loved one who is in a nursing home. Simply seeing the visitor or family member may be more meaningful to the person confined to the long-term care facility than you know. With that said, each of us needs to be prepared as our loved one may find it difficult to effectively communicate due to his or her unique health concerns. 

Despite there being little communication during the visit, oftentimes, just being present with a family member or friend can be satisfying to the patient. We know you may have questions on the ”right way” to visit with a loved one. We want you to know that there is no one “right way” but the following are some suggestions on how to make a visit to a person confined to a long-term nursing home meaningful. 

As a visitor, you want to consider bringing with you items that can be of interest to the patient. For example, if the patient previously had a pet, it could be meaningful if the visitor brought his or her pet for a visit with the patient at the nursing home. Similarly, if the patient enjoyed music or played a musical instrument, the visitor could bring a cassette player and discs to play music that would be meaningful to the patient. Simply reading aloud can also be helpful.

Oftentimes, as nursing home residents decline, they lose the ability to communicate. Unfortunately, we see that this is a time when many families stop visiting as often because they do not know what to say or how to make the visits meaningful for the family, as well as their loved one. It can also be difficult to see a loved one when he or she cannot communicate. It is crucial to remember again that just being present can be rewarding for all involved.

Talk with your loved one about events going on in the community or family. Even if they are nonverbal, do not assume they cannot understand. Just hearing your voice could bring comfort and keep them connected with the outside world. It may also be helpful to prepare or purchase a special food or dessert they love or of an ethnic origin that is not offered at the nursing home. Before you do this, however, you will want to be sure that the dietitian and physician agree that the patient can tolerate this new food. 

Looking at old family picture albums with a patient may be meaningful. This may cause the patient to reminisce about past life experiences. Bring in old family photographs and scrapbooks, if you have them. The patient may enjoy just listening to you explain the pictures and the memories. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We are here to answer your questions on this or any elder care issue you may be facing. We guide and work to protect families throughout our community to ensure that they have the long-term care support they need. Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our team.