Q: I am going to be part of a group that will visit long-term care facilities this holiday season. I have not done this before and feel very inadequate in relating to the residents. Are there any particular do’s and don’ts that would make this an enjoyable visit for the residents and me?
A: 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.
When you visit, you likely will find 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 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.”
Some residents likely will be in bed or a wheelchair. Because looking up is uncomfortable for any extended period of time, your visit should be conducted at their eye level.
You should place your chair so that 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, and do not lean on a wheelchair, which is considered personal space.
On your first visit, you will be getting to know the residents, so each contact with a resident should be fairly short. Sometimes just a few words will be sufficient. A comment about a pretty blouse or acknowledgment of a photograph or trinket on a bedside table will be enough to start a short personal 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 they 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, arrive when expected to avoid disappointment. If you must break an appointment, call ahead and make sure the message gets to the resident.
Always treat the residents with the dignity and respect their long years deserve. Respect any confidences that may be made to you.
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 nice if your group could plan more visits at different times of the year.
The open enrollment period for Medicare enrollees to change their health care coverage for 2012 continues through Dec. 7. The plan in which you are enrolled on Dec. 7 will be the coverage you have for the year 2012.
One-stop shops provide assistance with selecting Medicare Part D — prescription drug coverage for 2012. Below are some one-stop shops next week. Call 800-434-0222 for details and additional locations.
n 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Pleasant Valley Senior Center, Camarillo.
n 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Area Agency on Aging Office, 646 County Square Drive, Ventura.
Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are located at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362. Call 495-6250 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your phone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.