By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, MSW
Take the Time to Plan Your Visit
Life can bring unexpected turns, and sometimes we find ourselves faced with a situation where a relative or loved one has to live or spend time at a facility that provides short term or long term care. Visits can be incredibly therapeutic for the person who is confined to a stationary location, and visits by a friend or family member helps them know that they are cared for, and appreciated making them feel supported. It is important to remember that it takes a lot of our energy to visit, so when one takes the time to prepare in advance it can relieve unnecessary stress.
- Timing is something that needs to be considered. Try to find out in advance what is the best time for your relative to have visitors. Are there certain visiting hours? What are the meal times, scheduled treatments or activities? Try to coordinate your visits with other visitors to spread out the visits and not have several visitors at one time, or worse, no visitors for a long time.
- Before going to your relatives room, if possible, take the time to explore the facility inside and outside looking for a place different from their room where you could visit with little noise or distractions.
- Consider the length of the visit or how often you can visit. Think about what works best for your schedule so you do not have to feel rushed. It is important to let your relative know when and how long you will be visiting no matter what your schedule. Try to maintain consistency in your visiting to help create a routine for your relative and reduce their uncertainty or worrying thoughts about when you will be visiting again. Remain truthful about when you will be visiting again and do not overextend yourself or make unrealistic statements that will disappoint your relative and give you feelings of guilt or pressure.
- Before you arrive, prepare yourself for what mood your relative might be in, they might have challenges with their emotions due to their physical health. If the visit is not going well, it is alright to cut the visit short, and if, on the other hand, it is going well, you can consider lengthening the visit.
- Saying goodbye can be difficult, especially in a longterm care setting. Reassure your relative with your love and be generous with your hugs. Try not to leave them alone if they are upset about your leaving. Find another location with others are gathered or maybe an activity that is underway. Tell them what you are going to do , go shopping, go to work, etc. When you are leaving, do not drag out your leaving with a long conversation about your reasoning or a discussion of why you have to leave. Turn on a radio or the television, hand them a drink or a magazine, something for them to hold. Leave quietly and quickly.
Professional caregivers or the inexperienced can benefit from planning their visits with friends or relatives who are staying in a medical facility or longterm care community. When we take the time out of our schedules to visit others, those who are not able get out at their will, can be a great gift we provide another individual. Planning your visit is a small task to increase both your joy and your relative’s experience.
Inspiration for this blog was provided by the work of Baycrest.