QUESTION: I am going to be part of a group that will be visiting several long-term care facilities during the holiday season. I have not done this before and am looking forward to it, but feel very inadequate in relating to the residents. Are there any particular tips that would make this an enjoyable visit for both parties?
ANSWER: Visits of this type usually make most people a little apprehensive, at least at first, and you are to be commended for wanting to do this.
You have discovered an underserved population, and about 60 percent of the people in that population seldom, if ever, have a personal visitor. The individuals and organizations that provide visits and programs during the holiday season certainly help make the holiday period more festive for those who make these facilities their home.
When you visit, you will likely find many of the residents in their rooms. Even though the door is open, their room is now their home. Knock and ask permission to enter before walking in. This little courtesy will be most appreciated and will provide the resident with a little control over the visit.
Once in the room, introduce yourself and ask the resident for his or her name. Don’t use their first name without asking, as some residents come from backgrounds that were much more formal about names and still prefer to be addressed as Mr. or Mrs.
As you will probably notice, most of the residents will be in bed or a wheelchair. Since it is uncomfortable to look up for any extended time, your visit should be conducted at the resident’s eye level.
You should place yourself so you are facing each other. You should not have your back to the window, as the glare from the window will cause the resident to see you only in silhouette. Never sit on the edge of the bed unless invited or given permission to do so, and do not lean on a resident’s wheelchair, as that is considered the person’s personal space.
On your initial visit, you will be getting to know the residents, so each contact should be fairly short. Sometimes just a few words will be sufficient. A comment about a pretty blouse or acknowledgement of a photo or trinket on a bedside table will be enough to start a short conversation.
Be an attentive listener and be patient with repetition. Always be on alert for signs of fatigue and be ready to end the visit, should that occur.
When leaving, don’t promise to come back if you know you can’t or won’t keep that promise. If you do set a date and time to return — to avoid disappointment, arrive when expected. If you must break an appointment, call ahead and make sure the message gets to the resident you are planning to visit.
Always treat the residents with dignity and respect. Respect any confidences they may have made to you during your visit.
With these things in mind, I’m sure you will feel more comfortable and confident in your role of visitor. Remember your visit will be a ray of sunshine to those you spend a few minutes with.
I hope you will enjoy this experience and will continue to visit as often as you can. During the holiday season, many individuals and organizations visit these facilities, and those visits are always appreciated. However, the rest of the year is usually void of a lot of activity. It might be a nice idea if the group you are going with could plan additional visits at different times of the year.
QUESTION: As a caregiver for my aunt who has dementia, I am always looking for ways to keep her involved in social activities and am always on the lookout for something new or different. Do you have any suggestions?
ANSWER: I believe Senior Concerns’ new program Memory Café could be exactly what you are seeking.
Memory Café is a social gathering where people with memory loss and their caregivers and/or family or friends can come together in a safe, supportive and engaging environment. It gives participants a welcome opportunity to socialize with others.
The first Memory Café will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 10 at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks.
You and your aunt will have the opportunity to form friendships, relax in a stigma-free environment, receive peer support and share a meal with your loved one.
For more information and to make a reservation, call 497-0189. Space is limited and reservations are required, so call today and don’t miss the opportunity to take part in this activity.
Future Memory Café events are scheduled for Feb. 25, May 13 and Aug. 26.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., holiday craft bazaar at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks.
Tuesday:1:30-3 p.m., “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test?” seminar at Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi in Simi Valley. For reservations, call 583-6363.
Dec. 7:1 p.m., “Frauds and Scams” presentation at the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging meeting in the Civic Arts Plaza boardroom, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. No reservations required.
Also: The Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association will offer free diabetes classes, no reservation required, from 1-2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Livingston’s community room, 1996 Eastman Ave., Room 109, Ventura; 10:30 a.m. to noon Dec. 7 at the Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi in Simi Valley; and 2:30-4 p.m. Dec. 7 in Room 3 of the Camarillo Community Center, 1605 Burnley St. in Camarillo.