An important part of remaining connected to one’s family is to have contact with members of all generations of that family.
For example, it is important for the resident to maintain contact with grandchildren after placement in a care facility, especially if the resident enjoyed close relationships before. Loss of contact with grandchildren may be perceived by the resident as abandonment or punishment.
But it’s not just the resident who can benefit from intergenerational visits; younger family members also benefit from seeing older family members, even after they are ill or frail. Visits with a grandparent show that families can stay committed to all of its members. These visits also show younger family members that the life cycle is a natural process.
Very young children rarely react negatively to older or ill people, but may be fearful of going into strange environments. Older children and teenagers may respond negatively to illness or disability, and may need time and assistance in adjusting. Your reaction to visiting and to aging in general will have an effect on these children. If you can show them, through modeling, that visiting with an older relative or friend can be rewarding and worthwhile, then the children’s visits are more likely to be positive experiences. Again, finding an activity that you can all do together (playing the slot machine, shuffleboard, surfing the internet, playing cards or a board game) can help to enhance the visit.
Preparing Younger Family Members
Describe what they are likely to see (people using walkers, wheelchairs, broda chairs or in bed, confused people wandering). Listen to their concerns and perceptions, answer all of their questions, and acknowledge fears/concerns.
You may find that saying goodbye at the end of a visit is the most difficult part of the time together. For the resident, feelings of grief and abandonment may surface when the loved one leaves. For you, the visitor, leaving may bring out feelings of guilt. There are many approaches you can try to ease the transition.
For some residents, consistency in the timing of your visit can be helpful in developing a routine. The resident then becomes accustomed to when you will be leaving.
Plan for leaving
Providing the resident with something else to do at the moment you leave may make the leaving easier (i.e. Accompany the resident to an activity program that is just about to begin, to afternoon or evening tea, or meal time)
Asking Staff for Help
Request that the staff assist you in distracting the resident while you leave. They are very skilled in this!
Focus on the Positive
I will see you again soon.
Reassure the resident that you care. Try a hug.
While it is usually better to tell the resident that you are leaving, in certain cases (i.e. a severely cognitively impaired resident) it does work better to you just leave without saying goodbye.
The tradition of giving gifts to celebrate special occasions can easily be continued for the residents. If you are having trouble thinking of gift ideas, ask our Charge Nurses for additional ideas. Please don’t bring scented items (perfume, heavily scented flowers) into the Lodge.
- Appropriate Clothing — Staff can assist you in determining what clothing would be appropriate. Safety in footwear and ease of dressing in clothing should be considered. Please ensure that these items are labeled by the Laundry staff before you add them to the closet.
- Toiletries — Nice hand lotion, hair brush, lip stick, but nothing heavily scented.
- Photos — Bring old photos, or new family pictures
- Food — Please consider any dietary restrictions before bringing food. Do not bring more that can be shared at a single visit.
- Audio Tapes — Talking books, music, cd player
- Calendars — Especially those depicting a favourite subject
- Large Print — Books, magazine or newspaper subscriptions
- Sensory Items — that you can use together during visits.
Commonly Asked Questions
How often should I visit?
There is no right answer to this question. Only you can decide on the right amount of time you should spend visiting. Consider your other demands and your health. If you are not taking time to maintain good physical and emotional health for yourself, you will not be able to bring your best to the visit. Sometimes fewer, but better quality visits are the best compromise.
Should I tell my relative if something bad has happened to someone in the family (i.e. Death, serious illness or divorce)?
There can never be an absolutely right answer to this because there are always unique considerations in every situation. But, as a general rule, all family members should be advised about family issues, whether good or bad. Being part of a family involves both the good things and the bad things in life; just because a person is physically removed from the family doesn’t mean that he or she should be excluded.
As we can never be certain about the depth of understanding of an individual who has experienced severe memory changes, even they should be told about family issues. However, little is gained by repeating information they find distressing. With this population, it is often advisable to tell them once and then, unless they ask, don’t raise the issue again.
Planning when and how to deliver bad news is important. Like you, the resident will feel overwhelmed. It is important that they receive the necessary support at the time the news is delivered and afterwards.
Whenever and however bad news is relayed to a resident, it is also important to give the details to staff. Then, if the resident is distraught in the coming hours or days, staff will be able to provide the appropriate care and support.
Comatose or Severely Cognitively Impaired Residents
You may wonder if there is any point in visiting residents who are comatose or who have experienced severe memory changes. Questions you might ask are:
- How can I tell if my family memory or friend knows I have visited?
- How do I know if my loved one benefited from the time spent visiting?
It’s impossible to answer these questions with any surety. However, you may find it comforting to know that many professionals who work in this area believe that the person does know, at some level, that someone is offering support and comfort. And even though there is no way to tell if there is benefit to the residents, coming to see a loved one may benefit you by helping you to work through some grief issues. Focus your visits on sensory activities and your communication, so the resident can continue to hear your voice.
A Resident Who Is Dying
At this time, visiting can be vitally important. By holding the resident’s hand you are offering emotional support through this difficult time. Being present at a dying loved one’s bedside provides the visitor with the opportunity to grieve and to come to terms with the pending death. Please talk with our staff or your support people if you are feeling overwhelmed through this difficult time. Our staff can answer questions you might have about the process. Please use our “Bedside Boxes” which contain comforting items and visit with our Nurses or Pastoral Care Coordinator.
What If You Have Questions?
As a visitor to a facility, you play an important role in ensuring that residents receive appropriate care. Keep your eyes and ears open during your visits. If you see or hear anything that you have questions about, discuss it with the Charge Nurse as soon as possible.