Being a part of the last months and years of an elderly parent or a loved one’s life can be a fulfilling and beautiful time.  For many people it can be fearful, emotional and uncertain depending upon the circumstances and the quality of life of the loved one.  Here are some ways to make the most of your caring for parents while in a nursing home.

  • Be present. Our modern culture is accustomed to multitasking almost all the time.  We surf the net while watching TV, listen to music while walking, go on social media outlets while hanging out with friends and talk on the phone while driving.  The generation of those in nursing homes did not have all these technological distractions and are often offended by their presence.  Whether you are conversing by phone or in person, to be present and participatory in the moment is a gift.  You may not even be having a conversation but the time spent with them matters.
  • Bring something to brighten their day.  A simple gift purchased ahead of time lets them know you were thinking of them outside of the visit.  Usually keepsake items do not mean much, but something to brighten the room would.  Flowers and plants are a great way of showing affection and bring nature and beauty into their room.  Cards and flowers can also be sent to them when you are unable to visit due to distance.  Their favorite food or a meal from their favorite restaurant can also bring a new vigor, just check with the nurse to guarantee that it goes along with any diet restrictions.
  • Schedule visits ahead of time.  Half the fun of Christmas and birthdays is the anticipation and a visit from a favorite family member has the same appeal.  Speak with the nurse about the best timing as to maximize your time and prevent interruptions.  Care homes typically have activities planned and it can be a good bonding experience to attend one together.  If you know you are having a larger gathering of family, speak to the facility and they can often reserve a small room for you to have some private time.
  • Get to know the people in the facility.  The nurses and professional care staff are the frontline of your loved one’s care.  Establishing a rapport with them will create a bridge to help you when issues come up or your loved one is having a difficult time. They work hard to provide good care, and a little appreciation can go a long way – a batch of homemade cookies, a bag of cuties or a box of bagels are all great ways to say thanks.  Getting to know the roommate can also help to create a good visiting environment as they can often be present during your visits. 
  • Take care of yourselfCaring for you or for someone else can be exhausting.  It is important that you take the time to eat healthy food and exercise so that you can import that energy to your family member or loved one.  You can incorporate them into this by taking them for a walk outdoors or share a meal together.
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