a few ideas to comfort people living in a nursing home and/or making
the transition to a nursing home.
- Talk with them! Individual interaction
becomes more and more important as time goes by in a nursing home.
Clues to a good visit would be to ask questions and get some kind
of response. Ask opinions. Make the person you love part of the conversation
- don't just talk at them. Talk with the person on current events
(world and local news), family activities, the good old days, their
favorite spectator sports, local politics, and similar topics. Make
one short statement and then ask their opinion on the subject. Involve
them in thinking about the subject. Talk slowly and clearly even if
the person has good hearing, but don't talk "baby talk". It may make
the person sad to talk about hobbies or interests they are unable
to pursue in the nursing home. Ask about the food and what they had
at the latest meal. Expect they could be unpleased and have a sympathetic
reply ready. It is no comfort to tell them they will get used to it.
- Talking about meals and food in a nursing
home: For some people, no matter how good or nutritious
the meals are, it isn't their own "home cooking" so it may never
measure up to being a good meal. Focus on the fact that they didn't
have to go through any trouble to cook or clean-up the dishes
or set the table. (also see Bring a treat further down this page)
- Bring books or magazines
with pictures, large print books, a large print Bible (Size
14point type if the person is able to read and access the book from
a table), large photos of family. If they have a hard time holding
books or magazines, get a table-top book-stand. Storage space is at
a premium in a nursing home, so it may be a good idea to leave only
one or two items on a visit and remove old material.If you have brought
a book with photos, take a few minutes and look at it together, ask
questions comment on each picture. We have provided some suggestions
for large print books and picture books. One of my
favorites to look at with mom is "Chicago The Glamour Years 1919-1941"
full of great pictures that people across the country would relate
to. Click on the book or here to visit our Books for Seniors
- A treat if there
are no food restrictions. Ice cream, homemade cookies, cake or a small
share of a favorite comfort food. Be sure it is just before mealtime
so they will enjoy it. Disregard the fact it "Will spoil their dinner".
Their joy is well worth it. There are usually no facilities to store
leftovers in a nursing home . Double check with the nursing home staff
if the resident does have food restrictions.
- Provide a radio
already tuned to their favorite station. If they are unable to turn
it on, schedule with staff to have them turn it on. Find out if the
nursing home has electrical outlets near the bed or sitting area and
bring an extension cord if necessary.
- Provide a small television
and tune it to a favorite channel or program. If you can, be there
with them to enjoy their favorite program. If you are unable to be
there to share the program ask the staff to turn on the TV for the
favorite program, or have them remind the person when it is time for
the program if he or she is able to use the TV by themselves. You
could leave a note taped on the television with the day, time and
channel of the favorite program. Find out if the nursing home has
cable, dish or standard television.
- Bring a few favorite things
from home to begin life in a nursing home. Though there is
not a lot of space for momentos, but the 2 or 3 small and most precious
things may provide some comfort - on the other hand be prepared for
tears, but in the end, they will be treasured. Bring a favorite or
hand-made afghan. If you have most of personal affects at your house
or available to you, from time to time bring something more to talk
about and remember from "home." Use your judgement about leaving it
or taking it back home with you. (Do things get misplaced there often?
Would you feel really bad if it were broken? Is there enough space
to keep it there?)
- Bring photos from family
activities and encourage extended family and friends
to send cards and notes. Some nursing homes may have individual bulletin
boards in the resident's space. Check with the staff about pinning
or taping photos and cards on the wall. Read and re-read the cards.
Talk about the person who sent it. Start a family photo album you
can leave at the nursing home. If you have any prior generation photos
of grandparents, great aunts or other older generation family, start
the book with copies of them. Put in copies of your own childhood
photos - you can probably talk together easily about these. (Fast
service scanning and printing is easily available so you can get copies
and keep the originals).
- Bring something new to
wear - depending on how long the person you love has been
in a nursing home, and how clearly they think and understand, it may
be nice to get them a new pair of slippers, or something new to wear.
Be sure to put their name on it in marker in an obscure place. If
the nursing home resident does not understand it is a gift for them,
it can at least make you feel better! Talk about the gift and look
at it together let him or her feel it or hold it for a moment - to
begin a sense of ownership in something unfamiliar.
- Get a calendar - A wall
calendar serves several uselful purposes- 1. The days can go by
unnoticed. There is no sense of time for many residents in some nursing
homes. One day blends into another and birthdays, holidays and events
(Mother's Day, Election Day, Veterans Day, The 4th of July, etc) may
not seem to exist within the walls. You can point out special days
in the month, and confirm what day it is today. 2. You can get a calendar
that has marvelous pictures of something the person loved or likes.
You can talk about the current picture on a visit. 3. Put it where
the resident can see it easily on their own. The pictures can brighten
an otherwise sterile environment.
- Ask about their day!
Meals and activities are primary. It also helps keep the mind active.
If you are able to see the weekly activity schedule for the nursing
home, take a look and see what you think may interest the person you
love. You can ask if they went to an activity and what they did there.
Ask about the meal. You can suggest a future activity from the schedule,
and talk about how they may enjoy it. If activities are optional and
you know the person you love would enjoy a specific activity, be sure
to remind the staff about it. Caring nursing home staff will encourage
participation. You can even talk about scheduled activities they never
enjoyed before and probably would not enjoy now. It's good to vent
or find humor in it. If the person you love will not or cannot talk,
ask anyway. Watch carefully and try to interpret body language or
eye movement and state the feeling you think you see in them. Ask
them if you got it right?
- Take him or her out!
When mother first lived in the nursing home, we were able to get her
into a car and take her out to dinner or to the house or even to the
mall in a wheel chair. It wasn't easy as we'd have to pack the wheel-chair
in the car and two of us helped to get her in and out the car. This
change of scenery was good for her. Gradually we cold not get her
up the stairs at our house. Gradually we were unable to get the "dead
weight" into a car or out of a car, as her limbs deteriorated. Now
on nice days, we at least take her outside the building in the wheel-chair.
Since the nursing home is located within a city, we take her on wheel-chair
excursions in the neighborhood. We take her to the hardware store
and other stores. It isn't a matter of being her favorite place to
"shop", but rather changing the environment. With good walking shoes
on , we can roll her all the way into Mc Donalds for a milk shake
treat. On our last trip out, we were walking when the only rain of
the summer came! We hurried. You may have to "Sign out" a person to
take them off the premises. Check with nursing home.
- Stuffed animals?
When we first started our nursing home experience,
we where dismayed to see elderly people cuddling stuffed animals.
As time went by, we became aware of the loneliness, and the longing
in some residents. There are people who loved pets and now had none;
people who were "touchy feely people" and had no one to hug. A stuffed
animal to remind them of a real pet or just to hold isn't a bad idea.
(Be sure to put their name in marker on it) Talk about the pets that
were well loved.There's likely a stuffed
animal of a favorite breed or one that is just cuddley and cute.
- Bring a tape player and
take it home with you between visits. You can tape
family events; you can tape greetings from family members in other
parts of the country; you may find tapes of his or her favorite song
or music and listen to one or two together. Tape recorders and players
aren't as easy to find anymore.
- Bring a CD player and take
it home with you between visits.We'll be adding a great selection
of Old-Time Radio programs and music from the 20s-30s-40s that will
bring back great and happy memories. Its more fun to listen to these
with someone, so be sure to take some time and enjoy the programs
or music together. Ask about the memories.
- Visit the person in the
nursing home as often as you are able. Days are really long
in a nursing home. Your time is valuable. Several fifteen minute visits
a week may be more important than just one long visit with many days
of loneliness in-between. It is also easier to prepare a few things
to talk about for a short time span and you can always stretch the
time if the visit is encouraging. Think about what to talk about (If
you are not good at spontaneous conversation) before you set out.