Vamping up those visits

Posted on : Feb 22, 2015

Are you the primary support for an elderly parent living in a rest home? You visit regularly, take them shopping or to appointments and liaise with the rest home staff about any issues. But it’s not always easy to bring joy and make spirited conversation when you are mentally drained from a hard day at the office, let alone other family and social pressures. Here are a few things I am learning to do to keep the visiting experience a pleasure for both the visited and the visitor.

What are their favourite activities? In my dad’s case, having a beer while watching sport on TV seems to be his main pleasure now that jogging and overseas travel are out. He also likes TV comedies and mysteries, crosswords, reading and sleeping.

Since his memory is not as sharp as it was, I have a template in large font saved on my computer. I check the TV Guide or Listener and type out everything I think he would enjoy on TV for every day of that week. This is printed out and tacked to the back of his door so he sees it every time he leaves the room. I add in any rest home activities for the week – they usually have a calendar of events – and any appointments coming up.

Just because your parent lives in a rest home doesn’t mean he or she can’t go out in public. Do something special occasionally - a meal out, fish’ n’ chips at the beach, coffee at the mall...pack a picnic, take them to a concert or play, or to their favourite club, pub or restaurant. There might be a sport they enjoy on the big screen and even a few familiar faces to chat to.

Alternatively, visit while there is a big game on and take a drink or two to share.

Take them to visit someone they know, or to the library or home to see the cat. If the rest home allows, bring the cat in a cage to visit.

Some people may feel more confident in their own environment but there are ways to enhance your time together. Try to mix up your visiting times and inject a little difference into your visits sometimes.

Bring monopoly or cards and challenge them to a game.
Take in some of his /her/your DVDs or CDs. Ask the staff to play them for everyone; many homes have dedicated movie sessions.

Help them sort their photos into albums – you will need several hours for this but it’s a great long-term project which doesn’t have to be completed at once.

Remind them of birthdays/Christmas and offer to help write and post cards or purchase gifts.

Ensure their regular reading matter – TV Guide, Women’s Weekly etc - is up to date. Replenish their bookshelf. Decorate their room, especially for special occasions.

Get involved at the rest home. Help serve supper or fold napkins for the dining room. Get to know a couple of other residents a little - this gives you common ground for conversation. Maintain a good relationship with the staff. And accept when you are invited to the residents’ Christmas party or a concert or a Happy Hour.

Whether you spend two hours a week or ten with your special senior, try to make each visit a little special. Like a marriage, you will both get a lot more out of the relationship if you don’t let it become stale.


Article submitted by Jan Colley for Agedadvisor (c) 2015. All rights reserved.