Most people feel anxious when visiting a friend or family member for the first time at an Assisted Living Community. Not knowing where to go, what to say, or what you will see when you walk in the door makes many people just not visit at all. We reached out to area facilities to provide you with their best tips to put you and the person you are visiting at ease and to help you make the most of your time together.
A simple visit to a loved one in our Sunset communities means so much to our residents. You become the hands and feet of Jesus. Your focus and attention makes them feel valued and loved. It also relieves anxiety and self-conscious thoughts. Holding an older adult’s hand in a short prayer shows you care. Asking a resident a question and looking them in the eye as you talk says you recognize who they are and what they have to offer. Sharing family news and photos strengthens bonds and reinforces shared meaning. However, the most important gesture of all is your willingness to be present. When you do, you will bring joy to both of you.
Sheila E. Carney – Sunset Retirement Communities
My biggest tip is STAY CONNECTED. Even with all of the fun things going on around them, residents can still feel lonely, isolated, and depressed. Please take time to call, write, and visit. Wondering what to do when you visit? These are great for all ages:
Go outside for a walk or sit on a bench and chat/reminisce
Go shopping, to church, or out to eat
Join them for a campus meal or activity so they can show you off to their friends!
Bring your pet for a visit (if allowed and well-behaved)
Do chores together (for some residents, it gets harder to reach places that can get dirty)
Go through photos and record memories in print, or better yet, with video
Play games or do puzzles together
Bring food and make/share favorite recipes
Jennifer McClellan – The Cottages at Allen Springs
If you feel called to visit a retirement community even though you aren’t acquainted with anyone there, don’t hesitate! Retirement can be an exciting stage of life, but the drastic lifestyle changes that accompany it can also make this stage a lonely one. Older adults love to converse and to share their life stories, and meeting new people is always exciting! Before visiting a community, contact the Resident Experience Coordinator to see what activities/events from their monthly calendar that they recommend attending.
Anna Huizenga – Aurora Pond
We recommend focusing your conversations on asking your friend or family member questions about their childhood. These conversations are so fascinating as so much has changed over the years. Childhood memories are something they can easily share about, even if they are exhibiting early signs of memory loss—those memories tend to stay longer than recent memories.
Tracy Wood – Railside Assisted Living Center
For Those Suffering From
Conversation can be about anything or nothing at all. Most likely your loved one will want to hear more about your life than tell you about theirs. If the person has dementia, they may tell you the same story over and over. They may tell you something that you know never happened. This is their reality, so please don’t tell them they are wrong— just go with it. You can start talking about something different to redirect them. If you are not sure how to handle something when you are visiting, ask one of the staff. There are times when I visit my father and we don’t say much; we just enjoy sitting together watching a show on TV. Before you visit, call ahead. Ask them if there are any situations that you should be aware of when you come visit.
Julie Bouma – Byron Center Manor
For Those In
HOSPICE CARE & THEIR FAMILY
The gift of your presence in small time increments is huge. Take cues from the family regarding whether they would like to talk, reminisce, or just need quiet. Do not say ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘They will soon be in a better place.’ Everyone is different and no one expects you to have the answers. Taking the time to show up for even a few minutes helps someone feel valued!
Tammy Sue Veldkamp – Faith Hospice