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Making Nursing Home Visits Meaningful

By Sandra Stimson

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  1. Create a tactile blanket with different textures and items of interest to touch

  2. Bring items related to the season, such as pumpkins, poinsettias, spring flowers.

  3. Decorate their room for the seasons, with decorations and scents specific to the holiday or season. Take down old decorations.

  4. Bring fresh fruits and vegetables.

  5. If the facility has a community kitchen, cook a meal together. Some facilities have activity rooms where you could have a large family gathering.

  6. Follow the nursing home’s schedule for visits. Generally, it is better to visit in the afternoon. In the morning, many facilities are busy providing care and getting residents dressed. Phone ahead to let staff know you are coming. Follow through.  If you say you’re coming, please show up when you said you would. Always knock before entering the room. Always state who you are. With dementia, they may forget your face. Feelings are the last to go, they may feel terrible if you say, “Mom, this is Sally”. But instead, you could say, “Hi Ruth, my name is Sally and I came to visit with you.”

  7. Get to know the staff. Find out what’s new about your loved one.

  8. Let your loved one express their feelings and accept them. They just need someone to listen. You don’t have to have all the answers. Your presence is present enough. Enjoy the time you do have and the tender moments together. Try to leave negativity at home. Make your visits joyful and pleasurable. Don’t rush in, act bored, put down the resident, make them feel guilty about their health, or act like you would rather be somewhere else. They know!

If you plan what you will be doing before your visit, you will have a successful and rewarding experience.


Sandra Stimson is the Executive Director for Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care Sandra has had more than 13 years of experience in the healthcare field and has run caregiver support groups for many years.  She has held several positions as Activity Director, Assistant Administrator and Dementia Unit Director. Sandra's expertise is in the area of dementia unit development.  Sandra is also the Executive Director of the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners which advocates that all healthcare professionals are trained in the area of dementia, with a minimum training of 8 hours, and ongoing training while working with dementia clients.


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