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Visitor Tips

If you’re planning on visiting an older person in a care facility, here are some tips on how to better communicate with residents:

Hearing-impaired residents

  • Look directly at the person while speaking and make sure you have his or her attention.

  • If a resident has a “good” ear, then speak to that side.

  • Speak slowly and clearly; do not shout.

  • Know that body language and facial expressions are part of communication.

  • Try to re-phrase a thought rather than repeating the same words.

  • Use a pencil and paper or chalkboard if necessary. Remember – people with hearing disabilities have to concentrate harder and may tire easily.

Visually-impaired residents

  • Always approach from the front.

  • Identify yourself immediately and use the resident’s name.

  • Describe the surrounding environment, especially if you leave the person alone.

  • Touching is part of communicating.

  • Stimulate the senses of smell, taste and hearing.

  • Bright colours, such as reds and yellows with bold contrasts, are easier to distinguish.

Mentally-impaired residents

  • One to one visits are preferable to group visits.

  • Always talk to a resident as if he or she understands. Avoid “baby” talk.

  • Avoid playing “20 questions”. Residents feel embarrassed by seemingly harmless queries like “Do you know who I am?”

  • Use short, simple sentences.

  • Speak slowly and clearly.

  • Present one idea at a time and wait for a response.

  • Do not correct.

  • Try to follow a resident’s line of thought.

  • Enjoy reminiscing with a resident.

Residents in Wheelchairs

  • Always ask the wheelchair user if they would like assistance before you help.

  • Maneuvering their chair is a good form of exercise.

  • If you are pushing, make sure the resident’s hands are on their lap.

  • Try not to walk too quickly or in a jerky motion.

  • When stopped, use the chair brakes if there is a chance the chair may move unexpectedly.

  • Whenever possible, sit or bend down so you are at the same level as the person in the wheelchair.

Acknowledge feelings

Residents may be angry over their losses. Their control and politeness may be gone and instead, past anger may come out. Their present situation may anger them.

Listening carefully to feelings and remaining quiet and calm can really help. Acknowledge their feelings and limit if necessary.

Things to Do

Often if you have an activity to share with residents, visits are more fun. Here are some ideas:

  • Assist with decorating the resident’s bedside area. A clock or calendar can be very helpful. Even change the decorations with the seasons.

  • Hang plants or a bird feeder outside the window.

  • Reminisce with pictures, photo albums or audiotapes.

  • Help write or tape-record a family history.

  • Help write letters; sign gift cards.

  • Go outside for fresh air; comment on the surroundings.

  • Do handiwork – let a resident roll your wool, sort and mend, do simple crafts.

  • Play music, tapes, instruments or sing songs. Leave with some music playing on the radio.

  • Visit before their favourite television program so that you can put it on for them to watch as you leave.

  • Use the humour basket located outside the social worker’s office.

  • Read to a resident. Include other residents in your conversation.

  • Have tea together.

  • Bring in your children and friends.

  • Massage a resident’s hands with lotion; comb and style their hair; apply make-up or nail polish; massage shoulders or face gently. Let them do the same for you!

  • If the resident you visit has memory problems, a visiting sign-in book might be helpful. Also, special occasions can be recorded on a calendar.

  • Bring a small gift, such as a snapshot, a flower, coloured leaves, pretty rocks, shells, childrens’ artwork or homemade cookies.

  • Send an occasional greeting card or postcard, even if you live in town.

  • Encourage participation (Let’s do…) rather than ask – yet give the resident as much choice as possible

Each nursing unit has a Social Worker who can help ensure your visits are enjoyable. Feel free to give them a call or drop into their offices.

The characteristics we often admire in people of any age – kindness, generosity, openness, honesty and understanding – are the qualities that promote effective visits and add to quality of life.


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