Visiting friends or family members in a nursing home can be uncomfortable. Aside from worrying about the care they’re receiving, there is always that little voice inside you whispering, “How should I keep her busy? What can we talk about, other than what was served for breakfast and the latest ailments? What should I bring?”
Here are a few ideas you might consider that we used with my mom:
Take a walk. Getting outside, even if the weather isn’t perfect, can boost their spirits.
Go out to lunch. It doesn’t have to be to a fancy place. A trip to McDonald’s or Burger King can be a real treat … at least it was for my mom.
Stop off for snacks. A bag of pretzels or chips isn’t a big deal for you or me. But it can be for an elderly person who can’t get them.
Ice cream will surely light up their eyes. When my mom was too sick or the weather too nasty to go out, we’d bring a pint of Ben & Jerry’s S’mores to her.
Bring a family photo album. Let her turn the pages and tell you who is in the pictures and where they were taken. Yeah, you’ve heard the stories a hundred times before. But it’ll get her mind off where she is and why she’s there. And if her memory is fading, you can help identify the photos.
A blanket or comforter from home will give her something familiar to hold close. Years before her stroke, my mom enjoyed making quilts. So Dad took one to her and would switch it out every week.
There are lots of other things you can do, such as bringing newspapers, magazines, or books that she always enjoyed. If she has trouble reading, read to her.
Use your imagination and you’ll find that you have more in common with your loved one and future visits will become much easier.