Visiting a Skilled Nursing Facility
Make the Most of your Next Visit
Visiting someone in a long-term care facility isn’t always easy. But, with a little work, you can:
Spend “Quality Time” with your friend or relative. It isn’t how much time you spend that’s important – it’s how well you use the time you have.
Work with the Staff of the facility. Together, you and the staff can help ensure that the client receives the best care possible.
Why are my Visits Important?
Visits from loved ones can add so much to a client’s health and wellbeing! You can help…
Emotionally to adjust to living in the new surroundings of the facility. Your visits also help the person continue to feel like a member of your group or family.
Socially because you can build friendship and work with the client in many positive ways.
Physically your visits can sometimes help a person cope with physical discomfort.
Spiritually by working to strengthen the person’s faith and sense of hope.
Clients of Skilled Nursing Facilities
A loss of independence because the client gives up a certain amount of control over his or her environment, schedule and activities.
Separation from home, family, friends and familiar surroundings.
Loss of identity being in a group setting, a client may find it hard to maintain a sense of who he or she is.
Reduced mobility in many cases; the client may need help bathing, eating, dressing, etc., causing frustration
Self-esteem may suffer too given the changes they must face, clients may feel less capable and lovable as human beings.
You Can Help Them Overcome These Challenges
As a visitor, you can do a lot to enhance a client’s well-being. You can:
Give understanding and emotional support. Your relationship can have an enormous impact on a client’s life.
Help maintain ties with family, friends and the community.
Provide assistance with daily living tasks, while encouraging the persons to do as much as possible for him or herself.
Be a link between people, places, and events in the world outside the facility.
Boost self-esteem by showing the client that his or her thoughts and feelings are important.
Tips for a Quality Visit
First, think of yourself as a guest and the client as your host or hostess.
Learn the schedule of the facility, as well as the client’s routine. Don’t arrive during rest periods or therapy. Respect the client’s wishes about not wanting visitors at a certain time.
Respect privacy knocks on the client’s door before you enter. Choose a place to sit (not on the bed) where the client can see and hear you clearly.
Arrive on time if the client is expecting you at a certain time.
Remember – It’s the quality, not the quantity, of the time that’s important when you visit. How well you can communicate your care and concern to the client is the key.
Is it OK to bring a gift?
Yes, but it’s not necessary to bring one every time you visit. If you do bring a gift, consider:
- Writing paper & postage stamps
- Personal-care items (soap, hand cream, etc.)
- Photographs & magazines
- A lap robe or afghan
- Artificial plants or flowers
- A wall calendar
About Storage Space The client’s room may have limited storage space, so avoid bringing large objects.
About Gifts of Food Check with the licensed nursing staff or dietitian before bringing food.
Remember though, that the best gift you bring is YOU!
What Can We Talk About?
Anything and everything!
Tips for “openers”
- Ask questions about the client’s current life and experiences.
- Share your own experiences, especially if they are humorous or you can describe them vividly.
- Encourage tales of the “old days”. Try to keep a balance between the old and the new.
Be a Good Listener
- Maintain eye contact.
- Don’t finish or interrupt sentences.
- Summarize what the person has just said to make sure you understand the message.
- Don’t “talk down” to the person.
Focus on Today, Too
If the client seems confused or out of touch with the world, ask questions that focus on today’s concerns (for example, ask what he or she had for breakfast).
Visiting a Person with Special Needs
- Speak more clearly, not louder. Repeat words as needed.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- Watch facial expression to make sure you’re understood.
Unable to Speak or Understand Well (often due to stroke)
- Give the person plenty of time to speak.
- Use gestures, or point to objects.
- Don’t talk about the person in front of others.
- Speak calmly and reassuringly–not as if the person were a child.
- Use vivid descriptions.
- Offer to read newspaper, mail etc.
- Acknowledge the person’s feelings.
- Use positive words of encouragement and actions to help build self-esteem.
Remember to be patient at all times! Don’t get discouraged or stop visiting if the client isn’t in a good mood when you visit.
Have Fun Together!
Socialize with other clients.
Read Aloud from the client’s hometown newspaper or favorite magazine.
Write Letters or make some local phone calls to relatives and friends.
Bring Children or grandchildren along.
Work on a Project such as needlework, puzzles, a photo album, or a favorite hobby.
Watch TV together, listen to the radio, if possible, walk outside together.
Create an Oral History of your friend or relative. Use a tape recorder to capture favorite stories and experiences.
Go “Out on the Town“
When possible, a change of scenery can have remarkable benefits!
Go Sightseeing, or take a shopping trip.
Dine Out, or go to a movie, or, why not have a picnic?
Go to Religious Services or special outings, dinners, or programs.
Take a Leisurely Stroll and enjoy our lovely scenic gardens.
Celebrate Special Events and important dates such as holidays and birthdays. Make plans ahead of time with the facility, so family and friends can join in the celebration.
Share a Caring Touch
People in long-term care facilities, like everyone else, need physical affection.
Shake Hands (don’t squeeze hard if the person has arthritis).
Hug or Kiss your friend or relative when you greet each other and end your visit.
Place your Hand gently on the person’s arm or shoulder while you are speaking or listening.
Give a Manicure or pedicure. Bring nail scissors, file, emery board, and nail polish with you when you visit.
Help Provide Hair Care for a client. Comb and brush the client’s hair, or gently massage the scalp.
Let the Staff Know if you plan to do these tasks regularly or just occasionally. Share information with the staff about the client (for example, likes and dislikes).
Know How to Handle Complaints
Naturally, you want your friend or relative to have the best possible care. Follow these basic tips if the client comes to you with complaints about the facility.
Listen without Judgment
Avoid emotional reactions. Try to learn if the complaint is valid.
Get to Know the Facility Staff
Make it a point to become familiar with the staff, and find out who is in a position to solve a problem or answer questions.
Discuss the complaint calmly and reasonably with the appropriate staff member. Learn what solutions are available.
Don’t be afraid to speak up, but also be realistic – no situation is perfect.
Some Questions and Answers
Is it OK to tip or give gifts to facility staff?
Usually, it’s not. Show your appreciation instead with a sincere word of thanks or a letter of praise to a staff member’s supervisor.
How can I become more involved with the facility?
Ask how and offer your talents. Everyone has something to give.
What if I can’t visit my friend or relative?
Visit in other ways-through tape-recorded messages, and through regular cards, letters and pictures.
Your visits can make a difference in the client’s life and yours.
Appreciate how important your visits are to the client.
Come Prepared with ideas for conversation and things to do.
Work with the facility’s staff to provide the best possible care.