Residents of a long-term care facility face the challenging dilemma of staying in touch with their family – especially their grandchildren. Maintaining contact with family and friends is an essential part of an older adult’s adjustment to their new home, and it enhances their quality of life, said Sue Nall, RN, LNHA, Executive Director of The Village at Marymount in Garfield Heights.
When families visit their elderly loved one at a long-term care facility, there are many ways in which they can make them feel connected and bonded to what is going on with their grandchildren, Nall said.
“Pictures, especially from school plays and sporting events, are great items to bring to a visit with grandparents,” Nall said. “These pictures can be made into a family photo album that is beneficial for reminiscing. It’s also fun for children and grandparents to do an art project or to make a scrapbook that can be left behind for their grandparents to enjoy.”
Regular telephone calls and handwritten letters also provide a way for grandparents and grandchildren to stay connected. “Older adults love to receive mail,” Nall said. “Sometimes a short letter or a telephone call can mean so much.”
Maintaining family traditions is a key element to strengthening the bond between older adults and their family members. In the Memory Care Unit at The Village at Marymount, families can bake cookies with residents. They also can assist with meal preparation.
“If you have dinner every Sunday at grandma’s house, then it’s important to try to have dinner with her in her new home,” Nall said. “If you plan a day shopping with each other during the holidays, then it’s important to keep this tradition if the older adult is able to do so.”
When sharing time with older adults, Nall suggests that families keep the visits age-appropriate. She said it is unrealistic to expect a 2-year-old to spend three hours visiting an older adult. Parents also need to warn their children not to become frustrated when they hear an older adult repeat the same story four or five times during the visit.
“Younger children probably won’t think anything of hearing a story over and over again,” Nall said, “but teens may feel annoyed when they have to listen to the same stories again.”
With some thought and preparation, a visit to older adults at a long-term care facility can be beneficial and enriching to everyone involved. Keeping grandparents connected to their family strengthens the links between them -- and it helps them to become acclimated to their new home.