Here are a few suggestions when visiting a loved one in a long-term care facility:
• If you are visiting a loved one for the first time, understand this may be an emotional visit. Give yourself time to become acclimated with the facility and get to know the staff.
• People of all ages are welcome to visit, including children. Young children rarely act negatively to nursing home visits. In fact, they usually bring much joy to residents.
• Call ahead to inquire if your loved one has any needs, such as toiletries, clothing or other necessities.
• Perhaps you would like to take your loved one home for a holiday meal, or other outing.
Most visitors initially experience mixed feelings, including nervousness, sadness, guilt or anger. Seek support and advice from the facility's social services team. Many times, their reassurance is just the medicine you need to feel refreshed before your visit.
• What will we talk about? What will we do? How will we spend the time? If you've ever found yourself asking these questions, at holiday time or otherwise, you're not alone. Knowing your loved one and their personal likes and dislikes will help you find your way.
Here are a few suggestions for enjoying the time you spend together:
• Take a walk together
• Watch a favorite TV show
• Read to the resident, play and instrument or sing songs
• Reminisce or work on a photo album or family tree
• Help the resident organize (or reorganize) personal items in their room and/or closets
• Write letters or cards together
• Watch videos of family events
• Bring kids' drawings, crafts and homework to talk about
If during your visit you see or hear something that is upsetting to you or your loved one, or if you discover a problem, talk about it with your loved one. Notify the community's social worker, nursing staff or administrator.
For more information about resident rights in long-term care facilities, contact your local Ombudsman, Alan Bechard, 562-1732 or read more about resident rights on the New York State Department of Health Web site at www.health.state.ny.us.
The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.