Visiting a loved one in a nursing home can be a little stressful, especially if you have never done it before. Don’t worry too much about it. What matters the most is that you are spending quality time with them and staying connected. However, it can help to have a list of possible activities on hand to give your time together some structure. Here are 12 things you can do together, from giving gifts for an elderly person in a nursing home to watching a beloved TV show:
Give Family Updates
Many loved ones resist being moved into a nursing home because they are afraid it will isolate them from the family. Help assuage these fears by giving them family updates regularly over the phone or during your in-person visit. Try keeping a running list on your phone so you can jot down any events as they happen so you don’t have to struggle to recall everything on the spot.
Look at Photos or Home Videos
Speaking of family updates, showing your loved one photos or home videos of family events can help make them feel included. There’s usually one relative who’s really good at documenting everything, so ask them to send you the files ahead of time so you can download them to your phone and have them ready to go for your visit. If your loved one has a phone or does email, you can also send it to them that way so they aren’t waiting until your visit for updates.
Bring Them Small Gifts
Gifts are a great way to show that you are thinking of someone, even when you aren’t there. When shopping, keep in mind that your loved one has limited storage space, so don’t buy large or duplicate items that will clutter up their room. Practical gifts, such as senior clothing and extra wide slippers for swollen feet, are always a solid bet.
If the weather is nice, encourage your loved one to go outside with you for a few minutes. If they are up for walking, go on a short walk together. Make sure to bring a walker, cane or other mobility aids they might need. If your loved one can’t walk very steadily, then push them in a wheelchair so they can enjoy the fresh air. Make sure to cut the walk short if they become fatigued or get cranky.
Read Out Loud to Them
If your loved one enjoys books, offer to read a favorite out loud to them. If you can only visit sporadically, or they don’t have a great long-term memory, you might have better luck with a short story instead of a full-length novel. You can also offer to help your loved one get set up with audiobooks so they can continue to enjoy books even if their eyesight makes reading hard.
Listen to Music
This one is great for elderly loved ones who enjoy auditory stimulation, but can’t follow an entire story. Put on their favorite album and listen to it with them, or make them a custom playlist with different songs from different artists. If they share a room, make sure to keep the volume low and consider plugging in some earphones so you don’t disturb their roommate.
Eat a Meal or Snack
Food is an excellent way to bond with someone, and your loved one is probably getting a little tired of the nursing home menu anyways. Check with the facility to see if it’s okay to bring in some outside snacks to share with your relatives. Make sure to choose items that fulfill whatever dietary guidelines their doctor has prescribed.
Watch Something Together
If your loved one doesn’t have the energy for a highly interactive visit, then put on some movies or TV shows and watch them together. If your relative still uses DVD players, consider gifting them some DVDs of their favorites. If they can work a laptop, share your streaming logins with them so they can watch content even when you’re not there.
Do Some Self-Care
Nursing home residents are usually only touched by staff when they need to be moved or bathed. This lack of physical affection can be very trying, so your loved one would probably really appreciate a back massage or a manicure. They might also appreciate the gift of a weighted blanket, which can mimic the feeling of a hug even when someone isn’t around to give them one.
Take The Kids With You
Bringing the kids for a brief visit is a great way to make the time pass quickly. Make sure to educate your kids on what to expect, especially if your loved one is suffering memory loss or has another condition that can make them hard to interact with. Keep the visit short and don’t be afraid to end things a bit early if the kids are exhausting your loved one.
Bring a Family Pet
On the subject of family members, if the nursing home allows animals, bringing in a beloved family pet is sure to cheer up your elderly relative. Be honest with yourself about the pet’s abilities and don’t bring them if they bark a lot, go pee or poop inside, destroy furniture or otherwise cause problems during the visit.
Put Up Seasonal Decorations or Flowers
Brighten up your loved one’s space with seasonal decorations or a flower arrangement. Bear the limitations of their space in mind, and focus mostly on decorations that won’t take up a lot of floor or desk space. Remember to use Command strips or other non-damaging methods to hang things on the wall.
We hope this list gave you some inspiration for things that you can do with your loved one during your next nursing home visit. Remember to always stay present and focused on them and enjoy your time together as much as possible.