Visiting your aging family members is important for their physical and emotional well being. Remaining connected with family decreases social isolation and improves health outcomes. Yet, family visits can be challenging. Complicated dynamics, busy lives, and changing roles are things all families face. With a bit of planning and thoughtfulness, family visits can be less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.
Be present and pace yourself.
As we grow older, our ability to multitask and maintain lengthy conversations declines. While the pace of life today includes constantly switching gears, try putting away your phone and giving your family your complete attention. Being fully present, even for a few minutes, is an incredible gift to give your loved ones.
This doesn’t mean filling every moment with conversation. Long interactions are draining and silence can be good. If you are planning a lengthy visit, it is helpful to bring something to do while giving conversation a rest. Reading a book, working on a craft project, or putting on some favorite music can help pace your time together.
Take the pressure off.
Hosting company is stressful. Now imagine that you can’t drive to the store anymore, don’t feel comfortable using your new oven, and don’t have the energy to clean the house. If you are visiting around meal time, let your family know that you are bringing sandwiches from a favorite deli. Or plan your visit right after the housekeeper or home health aide comes so that she can help your loved one prepare. The timing of your visit can make a big difference, so if you aren’t sure when the best time of day is, just ask!
Including younger generations in family visits supports these special and important relationships. If you are bringing young children, prepare them ahead of time. Let them know any different rules that apply and talk about physical and mental changes or differences that they might see in their family members. Be honest, but positive about what to expect. Bring along something children can do together with older family members (such as a puzzle, artwork, or story) and also something the children can do independently while the adults talk or rest.
Visiting family members who have memory loss can be particularly challenging. While it is painful to see this decline and natural to question what they remember, avoid “testing” them about the past. Instead, share your memories and see if they spark conversation. For example, instead of asking, “Dad, do you remember the big snow storm in ’58? Which one of us built the snow fort in that picture?” You could say, “I always loved it when you helped us make snowmen. Is winter still your favorite season?”
Assess the Situation.
Visiting with elderly family members provides an important opportunity to check in on their safety and well being. Home visits provide insight into their daily routines and ability to care for themselves.
Make it a point to look for things such as:
- Is the laundry getting done?
- Is there food in the refrigerator? Are there healthy choices? Are things expired?
- Are medications stocked and organized?
- Is the housekeeping being done?
- Are there fall hazards around the house?
You should also observe your loved one for weight loss, problems with balance or walking, and changes in mood and behavior.
If you have concerns about the physical or emotional health of a family member, or about their ability to remain at home independently, we can help. The goal of home care companies like First In Care Home Health Agency is to provide assistance and guidance for you and your aging loved ones. Services can be provided for anyone that needs extra assistance. A home care professional provides a helping hand with everyday activities such as grooming and bathing, medication reminders, running errands (grocery shopping, prescription pick-up), transportation, and even movement and mobility.