By Kimberly Glem, Care Center Life Enrichment Director
Kimberly graduated from Saint Leo University with a BA in Psychology and holds several professional certificates including Activity Director Certified from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP), an Assisted Living Facility Administrator Certificate, and is a PAC Certified Independent Engagement Leader. She is a member of the Florida Healthcare Activity Coordinators Association. Kimberly is hard of hearing (HOH) and is currently learning American Sign Language (ASL) allowing her to connect to our Residents on a deeper level.
As a visitor to a nursing home, you may experience feelings of nervousness or some general discomfort – this is normal. It is important to look beyond the physical and think of each person as a special individual who has lived a long, full life, filled with unique stories. Take a look around and focus on the loving smiles of those providing care to your loved one and find peace that they are in good hands.
Residents, who lose the ability to communicate or become dependent upon a wheelchair for mobility, may receive fewer visits because their visitors do not know how to communicate or what to do to make the time meaningful. I have created a list of ideas to help family and friends connect with their loved ones in Long-Term Care. Remember, simply being present can be satisfying!
1. Bring your cell phone. You can listen to music, share photos of the new baby, video chat with out of town family members, watch home videos, or play trivia.
2. Share a meal or snack together. Join your loved one for a meal. You can always ask for it to be served in a separate family area, or lounge, for privacy. You and your loved one will enjoy the new surroundings. Bring a special treat, take a stroll, and find a nice outdoor space where you can be together. Families at St. Mark Village take advantage of our beautiful courtyards, walking paths, Village Cafe & Bakery, or neighborhood shops and restaurants. It is simple and fun to walk to McDonald’s for a delicious milkshake!
3. Help your loved one correspond with friends and family. Assist them in writing letters or signing Christmas cards. Again, don’t forget your cell phone so you can video chat, Skype, etc.
4. Exercise. Participate in simple stretching and leg or arm lifts. Break out some dance moves like “The Shopping Cart” and “The Sprinkler” or perform actions like “washing the windows” and “picking up the weeds” which add some humor to exercise.
5. Give a manicure or a hand or back massage. Who doesn’t appreciate a little spa treatment, especially from someone you love? Bring in a bottle of nail polish and lavender lotion. Don’t forget the men. They enjoy massages too! Human touch is very powerful. You can’t go wrong with a hug.
6. Read the newspaper. First, discuss if your loved one is up to it. Find some articles that are relatable and would be of interest to them. Check out the Good News Network online for warm and compassionate stories.
7. Get outside. Breathe in the fresh air and smell the flowers. Hold hands while enjoying your surroundings, and have some moments of peace and quiet. Not every moment has to be filled with communication.
8. Bring your pet. At St. Mark Village we encourage our visitors to bring in furry family members. Seeing or holding a pet can be so uplifting. You are sure to become a favorite friend of many of the Residents, if you bring in your pooch!
9. Review the activity calendar. Attend a group activity with your loved one. Play a game together, join an ice-cream social, or listen to a performer and sing along. There are tons of activities to choose from!
10. Personalize their room. Bring in familiar items and photographs to make it feel more like home. Perhaps a flag from a favorite sports team or keepsakes they once collected.
Visiting is never pointless. While families and friends may not know what senses remain engaged, or exactly what their loved ones are experiencing, we do know that hearing is the last to go. Don’t be afraid to communicate. Do what makes you feel at ease and be comforted in knowing that your loved one may be able to hear you.
If your visits aren’t what they used to be or you have run out of ideas, get in touch with the Life Enrichment Director or any of the Team Members who care for your loved one day in and day out. They have become family and often know what your loved one is feeling or needs. Chances are they have many ideas for you and even the materials needed to do them. We love to help!
Visits should be pleasant and gratifying for all. Make a plan for your visit and most importantly don’t let their Long-Term Care status hinder the loving relationship you have always had, and enjoyed with one another.
For more information about Continuing Care at St. Mark Village, please visit www.StMarkVillage.org/#the-continuum or call (727) 785-2580.