Tips for Staying Connected to Your Loved Ones in a Skilled Nursing Facility

At Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services, our patients in our skilled nursing facilities benefit from staying connected to their loved ones. This helps our patients feel loved, valued, and not so alone. If your loved one is currently living in a nursing home, you may not be sure of the best ways to stay connected, especially during the pandemic. Some people find that nursing homes are stressful because they aren’t sure what to say or do. For your loved ones, these family visits are a special opportunity to bond, catch up, and stay connected with the family. Consider these easy tips to help stay connected with your loved one living in a skilled nursing facility.

Contact the Nursing Facility

One of the best ways to stay in touch with your loved one is to plan a visit. It’s recommended that you contact the local nursing facility to determine when you can visit, for how long, and how often. Every facility has different rules and it also depends on your loved one’s condition and wishes for having visitors. Like anyone, your loved one has good and bad days. It’s important to respect these requests and visit on those good days when your loved one is up for having company. 

Due to COVID-19, you will also need to ask about policies for visiting during the pandemic. If you are allowed to visit, you will have to follow specific guidelines to keep everyone at the facility safe and healthy. This will likely include wearing a mask, social distancing, and not visiting if you are sick or have been in contact with someone that is sick. The facility may not be allowing visitors depending on their state’s rules regarding the pandemic. As an alternative, ask if you can schedule a video chat with your loved one via Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, or FB Messenger. It’s likely that the nursing facility will make these special arrangements, so your loved one can stay in touch with you. 

Plan Your Visit In Advance

Once you find out the details of the best time to visit, it’s a good idea to plan your visit in advance. This will give both you and your loved one time to prepare and to look forward to this special time together. For many residents, they have the most energy in the morning or after lunch. Since the nursing care team works with your loved one daily, they will know when it’s best to visit. You may be allowed to eat a meal together, which gives you and your loved one something to do during the visit. Indeed, this can make it easier to engage in conversation.

Be Present with Your Loved One

To be present, it may be helpful to set your phone to silent during your visit. This will help you focus on your loved one and enjoy those quiet conversations together. If your loved one notices you playing on your phone or fidgeting with your belongings, they may think you don’t want to be there. Of course, this is far from true but it’s important to be mindful of your nonverbal body language. A positive visit will help your loved one get through those difficult days during recovery and be reminded by those that matter most. 

Be Mindful of Your Communication Style

Depending on your loved one’s conditions, they may have trouble hearing you or focusing on you. You may need to adjust your communication approach by talking slower, a bit louder, and possibly repeating yourself. It also helps to talk to them at eye level, which helps them stay engaged with you during conversations. Remember not to get frustrated and be patient with your loved one. This is not easy for them, but having you there to love and support them lets them know they are not alone.

Bring Special Items 

Ask the nursing facility about their policies on bringing special items. If allowed, you can bring family photos, a favorite movie, or collectible with you. This is an excellent way to cheer up your loved one and allow them to take a break from their current situation and remember the old days. When possible, you can also bring their favorite recipes that you used to cook together. Find out if the facility allows children and pets to come as they can be a wonderful way to create joy for your loved one. There is something about seeing a child’s smile or hearing their laughter or seeing a dog’s tail wag or listening to a cat’s purr that soothes a person in a way that words cannot. Your loved one will hold on to these memories and be able to share them with their friends and nursing facility staff.

Be Mindful of the Length of Your Visit

When it comes to the length of your visit, every person will be different. Some patients love to have long visits of just being together, while others appreciate shorter, more meaningful visits filled with quiet conversations. During your visit, pay attention to your loved one to see if they appear to be tired or overwhelmed. This may be time to let them rest and wrap up the visit. However, if your loved one seems lively as they share old stories and talk about their experiences at the facility, no one says you have to leave immediately. Of course, be mindful of facility visiting hours. These hours are in place to ensure your loved ones receive the proper care and rest necessary to help them recover and reach their health goals as quickly as possible.

Don’t Let Dementia Intimidate You

If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, it can be challenging to know how to connect with them. You may not know what to say or how to respond to them. There is no exact science to this, but always remember to be patient and positive. It’s possible that they will repeat things and you will have to repeat what you say too. Just take your time and remember that your loved one is happy you are there with them even if they cannot express it verbally. Your loved one will likely be interested in talking about a specific topic, such as fishing or gardening. By knowing what they are interested in, this makes it easier to start up a conversation. The skilled nursing facility may even allow you to spend time together outside, such as visiting an on-site garden.

Include Your Loved One as Part of the Family

While at a skilled nursing facility, your loved one may feel like they are missing out on family time and making memories together. Ask the facility about the possibility of taking them out for a family trip together or to celebrate a birthday party. If this is not possible, remember to take lots of photos and videos and share them with your loved one at your next visit. This will help them feel like they are still an important part of your family even though their living setting has changed. To help motivate them to regain their independence, set aside some precious family photos for their room that they can proudly share with friends and the nursing staff. No matter what their health goals are, having visual reminders of people that love and support them makes a huge difference in their recovery rate and success.

We hope you found these tips helpful for visiting your loved one living in a nursing facility. By following these tips, you will find that your visits are more enjoyable, meaningful, and less stressful. At Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services, we offer skilled nursing facilities across North Carolina and South Carolina to help meet your loved one’s specific health goals. Learn more about our skilled nursing, short term rehabilitation, assisted living, and outpatient services designed to meet your needs.