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Great Expectations

Make the most of visits with your elderly loved ones

It’s been too long, and you know you need to schedule your next visit soon. Still, you dread sitting for several hours hearing the litany of complaints: “Therapy is not helping. My arthritis just keeps getting worse. You all have your own lives, I understand no one has time for me.”

But what is your favorite senior citizen really saying? Research tells us that the elderly, in general, are low on optimism. But as you listen to comments about poor appetites and sleepless nights, go deeper and put yourself in their shoes.

Getting old is frightening. With it comes the recognition that life has flown by. There are many joys and happy memories, but also regrets and disappointments to bear. Often, the journey is made without a lifelong spouse by one’s side.

For the most meaningful visit with your loved one, park your feelings at the door. This visit is not about you. It is about bringing a tiny bit of happiness into their day. Focus your efforts on the best ways to achieve that goal. Several short and sweet visits over the course of a few weeks may be more enjoyable than one or two long, silent visits.

Here are a few suggestions for ways to move beyond the pessimism and to pave the way for a great visit.

  • Planning is important. What is the best day of the week or the best time of day to visit? Provide details on what you would like to do during your visit – whether it is an activity in the home or lunch at a favorite restaurant. It gives your loved one something to anticipate.
  • Bring newspapers, magazines and photos, particularly of grandchildren they might not see that often. The materials can help them stay updated on current and family events.
  • Bring props, including seasonal music, recent videos that could be viewed on a tablet, and an old toy, collectible or other momento that could spark conversation. Favorite drinks, snacks or a carry-out meal are always big hits.
  • Truly engage in conversation. Have eye contact with your loved one and put your phone away. No texting or checking email during your visit. If needed, raise your voice slightly in conversation, but do not shout. Shouting can actually be harder to hear.

Visiting older loved ones can be challenging, but you will never regret those visits. Plus, it will brighten your day knowing that you’ve put a smile on someone else’s face.

Lisa Vogel is the owner of The Lisa Vogel Agency, a home health care agency providing custodial care on a live-in or hourly basis for clients who require long-term care, rehabilitation care, or hospice care. Learn more about how to maintain your independence by contacting The Lisa Vogel Agency at 410-363-7770.

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