Having worked in the care sector for over 10 years, I’ve met lots of wonderful loving families along the way. Here’s my advice to help you make the most of the time you have with your loved ones when visiting them in a care home.
Help make their surroundings familiar
No one knows your loved one better than you. So when you visit, help to fill their environment with the things they love by bringing things from home with you. You could bring in their favourite music, movies, photographs, letters, magazines or food.
Having their favourite and familiar things around might help them to feel more at home. It might also help the care home staff to get to know more about them. Talking to staff about your loved ones likes and dislikes might also help with this.
Take on a whole home attitude
It’s important to think of your loved one’s care home as just that – their home and their community. So try to think of the other residents as your loved one’s new neighbours and get to know them too. This is a new chapter of their life with new people to meet and friends to make. So by you adopting them into your friendship circle, you’re helping your loved one to be more at ease with this transition. Knowing that your loved one has company might also help you feel more at ease when you leave.
Bring grandchildren and other family members with you whenever you can to help create a familiar atmosphere. It’s amazing what the older and younger generations can learn from each other and is a good way to get children used to seeing different stages of life.
Try to get everyone involved in the activities organised by the care home staff. They’ll be pleased to see family members and residents enjoying each others company and feeling at home.
A change of scenery can be good
When you visit your loved one, you might feel obliged to stay in their room with them. But a change of scenery could be good for both of you. So ask them what they’d like to do. Perhaps a trip to the cinema, or coffee and cake at a local café.
Going out into the community is a great way to help your loved one stay connected to the world outside the home. So if they can, encourage them to pop to the shops to pick up a newspaper and spend time in the local area. If your loved one has specific religious beliefs, try to get them involved in a local group.
If their mobility isn’t good, you might be worried about leaving the home with them for safety reasons. So you can always choose to spend time somewhere around the home such as the gardens or communal areas. That way the care home staff will be nearby if you need a helping hand or reassurance.
Take the time to reminisce
Often, the older generation could write a book on the stories and experiences they’ve had throughout life. So spend time talking and listening to their memories. You could even put together a scrapbook of memorabilia. Chances are you’ll hear some interesting stories.
For people living with dementia, it can be easier to access and talk about past memories. So bringing in objects that spark reminiscence can be a great idea. For example photographs or old newspaper cuttings. But it’s best to allow your loved one to steer this type of conversation in the direction they’re comfortable with to avoid bringing up any old negative feelings or confusion. So allow them to reminisce about whatever feels right to them.
Use the senses as a way of connecting
If your loved one has dementia, they might not respond to traditional conversation. So engaging their other senses, such as sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing can be a great way to connect and communicate with them.
- If your loved one enjoys the beach, bring some shells with you that they can feel.
- If you’re out in the garden, observe the wildlife or touch the flowers and tools.
- Play their favourite music and see if they’d like to dance.
- Read them a poem or sing together.
It’s the little things that count, and physical touch is incredibly important for human beings. Simply holding your loved ones hand and being with them could be all they need from you.
Sometimes just being there is enough
And finally, don’t underestimate the importance of a cup of tea and a chat. Remember that this is your loved one’s home and you are their nearest and dearest. So put the kettle on and spend some quality time catching up. This will also help to keep your loved one connected with what’s going on in your life.
I hope you find these tips useful and continue to make happy memories with your loved ones.