Holiday family visits – 4 tips to make them a success

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Holiday family visits – 4 tips to make them a success

Posted on December 7, 2010

Holidays are important. They are times when we all take a break and relax awaiting for the following year. They are also times when families reconnect, spend time together and have wonderful opportunities to visit older members. A visit to an elderly person, especially during the holidays, can lift everyone’s spirits well as provide the elderly person with a reason to avoid feeling isolated and depressed. These feelings often are more pronounced during traditional holiday festivities, especially if that elder has few social connections or family ties.
This is particularly true when one realizes that more than 60% of nursing home residents do not a get a single visit during a whole year.

To encourage family visits, an activity director (and the rest of the senior community) can organize events that target the whole family, including the kids. The traditional dinners and cocktail are nice but there are other ways to get the family to stay longer. Focusing on an activity that the resident is comfortable with while providing something interesting to younger kids can be a challenge, but one can always provide different options and see how things go. Crafts and games are always nice ways to interact, spend time together and create memories for all generations.

These visits are great opportunities for face-to-face interaction with the family. The most awaited one is the update on the parent’s health and staff members should also mention how well they’ve been doing. This needs a little preparation but providing a short story about their parent to each visiting family is a memory they’ll never forget.
This interaction is a nice way of informing family members of the next year’s big event and suggest them to come back and visit.
For each of these visits, families should be encouraged to come with something to leave behind for their parents such as pictures, grand kid’s drawings or something personal.

For the adult children, this is often an occasion to evaluate how their parents are doing and the quality of service they are getting from the community. Here again, preparation is key. One should be ready to provide information on residents and any medical update if needed. Families will often use this occasion to provide recommendations or request changes. As always, manage expectation…

A very challenging situation for staff members is providing guidance to families that are coming to see memory impaired loved ones. Often, families ask question on how to deal with or make the most out of these visits. This is a good time for the community to shine in its role as a caring community. As Ms Rita Altman, R.N, National Director of Memory Care Services for Sunrise Senior Living describes it in a recent article, there are five tips to help prepare for the visit and make it more meaningful for everyone involved.

  • Live in the Moment
  • Travel back in time together
  • Engage in the familiar
  • Listen with empathy
  • Give a pleasant farewell

Finally, just as staff members request that the family bring pictures to their loved one, the community should be sure to send pictures home from events to the family, with a reminder of the next event at the community that they shouldn’t miss!!