Nursing home visitation is not limited to friends and family, nor is it limited to the holiday season. Visits help residents maintain connections with their communities and have a high quality of life.
The Ohio Department of Aging has declared Dec. 24-31, 2011 as the sixth annual “Visit a Nursing Home Week” in Ohio and encourages all Ohioans to use the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day to continue a tradition or develop a new habit of sharing their time and compassion with residents all year long.
“All over the country, nursing homes’ approaches to care are transforming in some very positive ways,” said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the department. “Facilities throughout Ohio are embracing person-centered care, which honors and respects the voices of residents and those working closest to them. Nobody gives up the right to request and receive visitors in order to receive the care they need, nor should they.”
Any time of year, a visit from a family member, friend or even a kind stranger can brighten someone’s day and offers the opportunity to contribute to another person’s well-being. An estimated 60 percent of nursing home residents have no regular visitors, a situation that can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness – feelings that can be amplified during the holiday season as their thoughts drift toward family members who have gone before them and holiday celebrations and traditions that are only fading memories now, Kantor-Burman noted. A visit from a loved one, or even a relative stranger, can help alleviate the loneliness.
Contact a local nursing home and ask for social services, activities or administration staff to inquire about residents who would welcome a visit. Kantor-Burman suggests asking about visiting hours, gift or food restrictions and their policies on children and pets. Find facilities in your area by visiting the Long-term Care Consumer Guide at www.ltcohio.org.
Tips for nursing home visitors:
• Call ahead to schedule your visit at a time that is convenient for the facility residents.
• A resident’s room is her home; please approach it with that in mind. Knock before entering, introduce yourself and ask before sitting on her bed or chair.
• Tell the resident about your own life or ask easy questions to get the conversation started, such as, “Did you ever play football?” or “Do you like dancing?”
• Don’t worry if you run out of things to say or if your visit is short - it still is appreciated.
• Residents with dementia may not be able to talk to you, but they still appreciate the sound of another person’s voice telling stories, reading to them or just sitting with them.
• Some residents may mistake you for someone else; consider it a compliment and don’t bother correcting them.
• If asked for help with water, food or assistance moving around the room, get a staff member.