Long-term care facilities play a critical role for us today. While it is true that none of us want to consider a time when we may not be able to safely live at home, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities provide a great option for elder adults who can no longer safely live at home. They are an option for Florida seniors who can no longer manage activities of daily living, or who struggle with dementia and other serious health concerns. 

What is interesting to us as we research this topic is that as age increases and health declines, an interesting dynamic occurs: Friends tend to visit at least as much as family. Whether these friends may be facing similar challenges or not, let us share several ways friends of elder adults can make the most out of their nursing home visits.

1. Prepare ahead of time. Call ahead of your visit and set a date instead of randomly dropping by. This helps nursing home staff and can allow the elder adult to maintain his or her routine. Bringing meaningful items also makes for a successful visit. Pictures, music, and gifts, for example, can help break the ice and spark moments of enjoyment. 

2. Food items. Consider bringing a favorite food item when visiting, but make sure not to stray far from the elder friend’s recommended diet. Ask your friend’s doctor or nursing home dietician if you have any questions.

3. Personalize your friend’s room. Take the opportunity to clean, organize and personalize the elder adult’s room. With permission, consider hanging pictures, displaying objects you know your friend is proud of, like a military medal or family heirloom, and arrange his or her belongings to create a healthy, positive environment.

4. Talk about fond memories together. One way to build the relationship during a visit is to reminisce about happy past experiences. Old photos and pre-planned stories are helpful. Make sure to focus on the elder adult and how important he or she is to others.

5. Help fulfill last wishes. While it can be painful to acknowledge, our elder loved ones and friends are in the twilight of their lives. Why not help them make the best of their remaining time? Ask them what they want; what they really want. If you can, help them get it. Maybe it is a nice dinner with friends and family, or perhaps a trip to someplace special. Keep in mind there are organizations that help elder seniors achieve their last wishes as well.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about visiting an elder friend at a nursing home, or if you have concerns about a nursing home and its staff, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We work with Florida seniors and their loved ones as they face significant elder care challenges. We look forward to talking to you and helping you secure the support you need for yourself, or for an aging Florida loved one or friend.