Make Your Visit Count

No matter how much we love our parents, we can’t help but worry — and wonder — about what it will be like to visit them in senior living.

While the first few visits may be awkward and even tense at times, here are some tips for turning your visits with mom and dad into positive, memorable experiences.

Be Patient

If your parent is leaving behind a home they’ve loved for decades, they will need time to acclimate to their new space, new surroundings, new routines and new people. In the meantime, it’s important to listen to their concerns during this adjustment period. In a few months, they may be wondering why they didn’t make the move sooner!

Plan Your Visits

Before your first visit, check with your loved one’s community to discover the best times to drop in. They may encourage or discourage visits during meals and activities.

While midmornings and midafternoons are often great times for visits, begin scheduling your trips for when your loved one is in the best mood. You may soon discover that it’s best to visit earlier in the day, before your loved one gets tired.

Create a Routine

Like most of us, seniors crave routine and predictability. By visiting your loved one at specific times and on specific days, they will always have something to look forward to.

While the duration of your visit should depend upon your loved one’s physical and mental stamina, shorter, more frequent visits are best if you live nearby.

If you live farther away and are only able to visit occasionally, coordinate with friends and family so your mom or dad has a social calendar filled with friendly faces.

Evaluate Their Health

In addition to bringing a smile to their face, regular visits can help you evaluate your mom or dad’s health and wellbeing. Has anything changed since your last visit? Do they seem strong, emotionally healthy and well adjusted? Do they need more care than anticipated? Do you notice any signs of depression or memory loss?

Observe their social life and make sure they are eating a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure to listen to their comments, complaints and problems, and decide whether they need additional help with daily activities, chores and medications.

Improve Their Health

Visits give you the chance to check up on their health, but did you know your visits might actually keep your parents healthy? We know that many of our residents see health benefits from staying connected to their friends and family.

If your mom or dad is coping with a chronic illness or the loss of a spouse, visits from loved ones can help prevent depression, stress, isolation and loneliness.

Help Them Remember

As a physical bridge to their past and future, visiting your mom or dad gives them the chance to reminisce about the best times of their lives. Conversations, home movies, music, photographs and scrapbooks can spark nostalgia, remind them of happy times and benefit seniors suffering from dementia and memory loss.

Make New Memories

In addition to reminiscing about the past, it’s just as important to help your loved one make new memories. Create new experiences by sharing meals, attending parties or taking them for a walk outside. This quality time gives them new memories to cherish and something to look forward to during your next visit.

Make Them Feel Special

Your visits give your loved one the opportunity to do things they wouldn’t normally do. You can read aloud to them, play board games or watch a movie together. Or if they are able, you can take them out to lunch or dinner, visit a store they love or take them for a walk among the beauty of nature.

Keep it Low Key

When it comes to visiting your loved one, it’s important to keep it simple. Try not to overwhelm or overstimulate them. Simply being there and holding their hand as they watch a favorite TV show can be a meaningful, memory making experience.

Be Understanding

If your loved one is in memory care, their personality may shift and change over time. It’s important to keep an open mind and be understanding during your visits, even if they seem to have different interests and friends than they’ve had in the past.  

Let Them Know They’re Loved

Your visits let your mom or dad know just how much they are loved. Your smiles and hugs will sustain them between visits, and when you’re not able to visit in person, you can always show you care through cards, emails, letters, photos, phone calls, Skype and FaceTime.

Love Much, Visit Often

No matter how busy you are, there’s always time to show the ones you love just how important they are to you. Soon enough, you’ll start to realize your visits benefit you as much as they benefit mom or dad.