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Better Nursing Home Visits

October 6, 2008
by Kathleen Mears
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Visitors bring residents needed familiarity and make their lives better. But some visitors unwittingly can make things worse. Knowing the resident's schedule will allow you to visit at appropriate times. Residents need to be informed about visitors whether they can understand fully or not. Dropping in is not usually a good idea unless you know you will be visiting at a resident's downtime.

Mornings are usually the time for bathing and care. Rehab residents will have therapy sessions scheduled during the day also. Though the therapy schedule can be changed somewhat to accommodate a visitor, make sure that you do not keep your resident from going to therapy. Most residents would rather visit with family or friends then do their normal nursing home activities. If you do happen to inadvertently walk in during a bath time, step out, get a cup of coffee, and have a seat for a few minutes. Try to be considerate and cordial with nurses and aides and do not make unreasonable demands. Aides care for everyone but if you make your visit needs known in a cordial way, they will be more likely to accommodate. Visitor flexibility and patience is greatly appreciated by the staff.

It would be better not to visit residents who are picky eaters or who need special eating assistance at meal times. Visiting the dining room during a meal can distract residents and interrupt their meal. Residents who eat on their own or who need minimal assistance would appreciate a visitor bringing a home cooked or take out meal to share with them. Be courteous and let your resident's nurse know that you intend to bring them a meal. If you want to share a meal from dietary with your resident, most nursing homes will provide you a tray for a small fee.

On weekends nursing homes have fewer staff and usually limited management on-site. It would be wise for visitors to avoid using charge nurses as sounding boards. Nurses will listen whether they have the time or not. Ask necessary questions only and be brief. If a nurse is tied up chatting with a visitor, residents may be going without their medications or treatments. Most questions can be directed to social services, the Director of Nursing, or the administrator during the workweek. If you are concerned that your message may not be passed along, write it down and send it yourself.

Residents on a restricted diet do not need coaxing from visitors to go off their diet. Being on a nutrition program is difficult enough without family and friends enticing residents to eat junk food. But occasional high calorie foods given in moderation are all right.

Residents usually feel restless after meals and a visitor can help them pass the time until the next activity or their after-meal nap. Be a respectful visitor and be as quiet as possible. To keep conversations private, close the resident's door during your visit. Also encourage your resident to go to the lobby or outside during a visit.


Kathleen Mears


Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...



great points of views Kathy. You are right it is appropriate to be thought full of others day to day living schudules. When you plan to visit a resident or family member in a nursing home or just any where for that matter. A quick email or phone call would be great. But sometimes the spear of the moment visit brightens some days ecspecially if they were done and out, for one reason or another. austin

visitors should not give cigarettes or matches to residents withour permission from a charge nurse The same thing about food...residents might be on a restricted diet.