Three Tips for Visiting a Nursing Home

If you are not accustomed to visiting a nursing home or rehab facility, it can be an awkward and bewildering experience.  Whether your loved one has moved into a nursing home or is recovering temporarily in a rehab facility,  we have a few tips to guide you. 

1. Keep the visit short

When Jim was in college, he worked as a nurses aid in a care facility.  He often saw families staying too long, even all day, overtiring the patient.  Take your cue from the person you are visiting and cut the visit short if you see he or she become tired or struggling to “host” you.

2. Incorporate Touch

I learned this tip from making visits with my mother.  When we visited her friends who were convalescing, she wasn’t afraid to comb their hair or take their hands in hers while they chatted. When mom was receiving her nursing care at home, after a stroke, I made it a regular practice to give her hand rubs and foot rubs.  She was unable to speak, so it was a way for us to be close in her silence.  Jim’s mother, too, loves hand and foot rubs. I bring some massage oil when we visit, and ask an aid for a plastic tub which I fill with warm water.   I sometimes suggest it when she is struggling to make conversation with us.  She is relieved to close her eyes and enjoy the experience. 

3. Make a memory book

It is well worth taking the time to put some type of album together, print or digital, especially if you are visiting someone with memory issues, We first made a memory book for my father, Leo, when he went into a facility and was experiencing dementia related to Parkinson’s Disease. It was a very basic photo album with photos from his life.  While he couldn’t remember much of the current day, looking at the photos together often spurred happy reminiscences from his life as a young man. 

From Dad’s memory book– fishing in Canada

A photo Leo took of his son Len as a child

More happy times– a picnic with his teenage son, Len; wife Janina; and baby me

When I think back to the many times we have visited our loved ones in a facility, it’s often the small kindnesses, like a hug or a hand rub, that mean the most. 



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