When is a good time to visit with a senior? The answer is OFTEN! I guarantee you they will enjoy a social call.
Many people procrastinate visiting with older adults for a multitude of reasons, even though they have good intentions. Perhaps you are unsure of what to talk about. Maybe the person has dementia and you are worried you might say or do the wrong thing. Well here are some very down to earth tips to make your visit pleasant and comfortable.
When is the best time to visit? Many seniors are most alert and have more energy in the morning or perhaps you can provide lunch. Take a meal with you to share, or if they are in a community, call ahead to reserve a table together. It’s a good idea to contact the senior to plan your visit to ensure there are no conflicts like a medical appointment. This will also give them something to look forward to.
Always reintroduce yourself. If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen someone, it is hard for all of us to put a name to a face. This is especially true when you are outside of the familiar surroundings that you knew them from, or if you’ve changed your hairstyle or added glasses.
Be sure to smile and make eye contact, shake their hand or give them a gentle hug. And if they are in a wheelchair, sit down near them. It’s intimidating to have someone towering over you.
Many folks have trouble hearing. Think about the environment. Is there music or TV on that may make it difficult to converse? Move to a quiet area or turn off electronics. Another good trick is to lower the tone of your voice instead of shouting. Sit near them so they can hear and watch your lips.
If you are concerned about how long to stay, you can set the expectations up front. Typically, a half hour visit is appropriate. Let them know you have an appointment but wanted to stop by and visit on the way. Or stop by a bit before their meal time or another activity so they can transition effortlessly and not feel anxious or let down when you depart.
Feel free to bring a discussion starter with you. Perhaps a scrapbook, photos or fragrant lotion for a hand massage. Playing cards or a board game are easy to chat over. Lead the conversation in positive directions. Talk about your family, children and pets. Ask their advice on an item you might be considering buying or a vacation you hope to take; everyone feels good that their opinion is valued. Reminisce about milestones in their life such as how they met their spouse or how they wound up in their occupation.
If you are bringing a gift, make sure you know if they have dietary restrictions or allergies. A small floral arrangement, small chocolates (sugar free are available) or postage stamps are usually appreciated.
If you can’t make a personal visit as often as you would like, stay in touch with phone calls and greeting cards. Everyone loves to get mail. And remember this visit isn’t about you, it’s about bringing a smile to an older person’s face. It has healthy benefits for both of you. So, during your time together, give the individual your undivided attention, you might be surprised at what you learn.
Article written by Camille Garrison; Sponsored by Kingston Health Care.
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