Successful Visiting

Why Visiting May Be Difficult

Many people find it difficult to visit once a person is placed in a care facility. The reasons for difficult visits may include:

A feeling of uneasiness about the environment at the care facility. “Its a place full of old, sick people with varying degrees of physical or cognitive disability.”

Difficulty interacting with family member or friend because of the physical and/or cognitive changes of the resident. “I cant stand looking at my Dad ever since his stroke, he drools all the time.” Or “My mother doesn’t even recognize me anymore. We cant talk together anymore.”

The reality that your prior relationship with the resident often comes into play during visits. “Mother complains all the time when I visit—I don’t visit often enough, I was mean to place her in the home. It drives me crazy all my life, all she ever did was criticize me.”

It is important to identify what it is that actually makes you feel uncomfortable.

If it is the physical environment of the care facility that bothers you, visiting on a regular basis may actually help to minimize your discomfort. People often find that, once they become familiar with the environment, they become more comfortable in it. If you can’t get over your unease, find a spot for your visit that seems most homelike, such as your relative’s room, a small lounge, the computer alcove, one of the gardens or gazebos. There are lots of these comfortable spaces at Arrowsmith Lodge and Cokely Manor.

If it is the physical and/or memory changes in your family member or friend that disturbs you, arm yourself with knowledge. We are often most uncomfortable with things we don’t understand and don’t know how to cope with. Learn about your family member/friend’s disability and its effects on the person. Our Charge Nurses, RNs, Pastoral Care Coordinator, Resident Lifestyle Director, and other professionals can help you to learn how to make the most of the remaining strengths of your family member/friend. We are also happy to loan you resource materials from of our library.

If it is the emotional aspects of the visit that are difficult, try to figure out what it is about the situation that is causing you emotional distress. There are several possibilities.For example:

  • People enter a care facility because their care needs or safety is beyond what can be provided at home by family and community supports. This reality can cause great emotional distress guilt, anger, and grief in both you and your loved one. Visits can bring out these emotions.
  • If your past relationship with the resident was always stressful, and there are unresolved points of pain, you may be trying to resolve these issues during your visits. These visits become difficult because of the expectations and emotions that you bring. You may need to accept that you are not going to be able to heal past hurts.

Understanding and coming to terms with your emotions can ease some of the stress of a visit. Individual counseling or joining a support group may be helpful. Speak to the unit staff about resources available to you.

What to do on a visit

  • Do you find the visit boring?
  • Does the visit follow the same pattern time after time?
  • Are you watching the clock throughout the visit waiting for a time when it would be acceptable for you to leave?
  • Is the resident sleeping through most of your visit?

Care Facility visits are different than hospital visits. When people are in hospital, they are usually these for short time due to an acute health problem. The focus of the resident’s life is on the acute health problem and on getting better, and as a result, the visit also revolves around the health problem.

Those living in a Care Facility are at ‘home’. Health problems will exist, but the objective of visiting is to provide the best quality of life possible within the resident’s abilities. Come and be part of your relative’s new home—participate in scheduled activity programs, join us for a meal or take part in caring for your relative. Finding independent leisure pursuits that you can do together can also provide a focus to your visit. The only limits to activities are your imagination and an individual’s abilities.

Adjusting activities for the physically frail

Many residents are physically frail. You may be afraid that an activity is too strenuous for the resident. While some activities may be too taxing, even the most physically frail person needs some fun in his or her life.

If you have an idea for an activity, but are afraid about whether or not the resident can physically cope with it, don’t give up on the idea. Discuss it with the resident and staff. Could you engage in the activity for a shorter period of time? Could the program be held at the Lodge, instead of going out? Could the activity be adapted to suit the abilities of the resident?

Most interests or activities can be adapted to suit your needs. For example, perhaps your family member was an avid gardener, but now has limited ability to move. You can tend a raised planter together, keep indoor plants in the window bay, or bring in flowers during your visits for holding and smelling.

If you don’t know how to adjust an activity to the appropriate functional level, please ask the Director of Resident Lifestyle & Community Programs for help.


Be Creative

Don’t do the same activity over and over again. Try different activities. Talk to the Director of Resident Lifestyle & Community Programs for suggestions. There are books and recreation equipment at the Lodge for you to borrow.

Consider Past Interest and Hobbies

If you base an activity on a past interest, you will likely get a positive response from the resident.

Use an Activity Jar

Make an event out of pulling a suggested activity for the next visit out of an activity jar in the residents rooms.

Stimulate the Senses

  • Hearing — Listen to favourite music or new music. Read aloud passages from books, newspapers, letters and emails from friends and family, borrow one of the talking books, a musical instrument or drum, go outside and listen to the sounds of nature.
  • Sight — Look through magazines or photo albums; use seasonal decorations to brighten the residents room; spend some time window gazing. Borrow some of the Snoezelen equipment.
  • Touch — Bring in a baby or a puppy for the resident to hold, or find the facility cat. Encourage the handling of fabrics of different textures (there are some fabric books that you can borrow) or put together your own fabric book using material from old and much loved clothing. Borrow the manicure supplies and give a hand rub or apply nail polish. Bring seasonal objects for the resident to touch such as leaves, flowers, sand, sea shells, snow, etc.
  • Smell — Bring in a variety of herbs, favourite scented flowers, bake or cook a favourite food, or borrow our aromatherapy kit.
  • Taste — Bring in a snack or a home cooked meals, or stay to enjoy a meal together.