What to do when visiting

Discussion in 'ARCHIVE FORUM: Support discussions' started by Carolynlott, Mar 1, 2008.

  1. Carolynlott

    Carolynlott Registered User

    Jan 1, 2007
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    I was just wondering what other people do when visiting their relatives in their care homes? I am completely lost for ideas. My Dad is usually sitting in the lounge when I go to see him, which isn't really a place you can sit and chat. Although he doesn't have a clue who I am he is usually (unless he is having a bad day) quite happy for me to take his hand and we go to his room. Today I managed half an hour of a monologue telling him what his grandchildren were doing, and things that were in the news. By which time he decided to take himself back off to the lounge. If only I could engage him I would happily spend longer with him. I get the feeling that because he doesn't know me he's not particularly interested in me and so is happy to get back to what he knows. I thought I would try taking a game - he has told me in the past they play games in the afternoon, though today he knew nothing about that when I asked.
  2. snooky

    snooky Registered User

    May 12, 2007
    Hi Carolyn,
    I know what you mean. Although when I visit my dad he is usually in his room on his bed. It is difficult to keep having things to say isnt it, especially when most of the conversation tends to be one way. I go through the usual things like you, what the kids have been doing and things about our town. What is happening in the news, what he's been having for meals and if he's been in the lounge and playing games! I think half an hour is often long enough for visits, because I know my dad probably gets tired after that time and i think it is best to keep visit short and often, in my dad's case anyway. My main problem with my dad is that everyime we go, he thinks he is coming back home and that appears to be his only focus at the moment. We will take him out for visits, but he is still quite weak, so probably will try this in a couple of weeks for the first time and see how it goes. He has not been outside for about 6 wks (since he's been in the home permanently), so will be a bit of a shock to the system and I wouldnt want him catching a cold on his chest (he's just recovered from pneumonia).

    Anyway, sorry drifting from the question. I think that your dad will really appreciate that you go and visit and to be honest, I dont think the conversation really matters too much. You just keep going and maybe you could take some games if you want to or a jigsaw puzzle or a dvd (we bought my dad a tv/dvd that he has in his room - although he cant work it!) and put that on.

    I am sure he just appreciates the fact that you visit and enjoys your company. Don't worry too much.

    Hope I've been some help, I know how you feel.


    Nic xx
  3. Carolynlott

    Carolynlott Registered User

    Jan 1, 2007
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Thanks Nic, its good to know you feel the same.
    My Dad has been in his home for 10 weeks now and in that time we have taken him to hospital twice (he broke his arm) and we have also taken him to the seaside (which he loved). I hope to take him out more when the weather gets better, possibly in a wheelchair as he walks very badly. I had felt quite guilty that half an hour was all I (and he) could manage. I think I will try some simple board games, though it all depends on his mood. I would like to visit more often but it's hard working full time and with family commitments - like it is for most of us I guess.

    I feel bad that before he went into his home I didn't spend enough time with him or perhaps do enough for him but he was a very private person and wouldn't let anyone help (trying to sort out his finances when he wouldn't let us see his papers was a nightmare). Somehow the fact that he is where he is now changes the perspective on things - as well as it becoming more apparent how advanced his AD is - somehow it was masked at home. Before he just seemed like a grumpy smelly old man who was making Mum's life a misery and I was quite angry about that even though I knew why, which I know is unforgiveable. I had never held his hand before - we never had that kind of relationship - but now it seems as if that's all I can do to connect with him.

    His moods vary and on bad days he wants to escape, but usually he just accepts where he is. He hasn't spoke of home for a while and rarely mentions Mum, though he did today. It's so sad because Mum (who also has AD but is still at home) doesn't want to see him - she says she doesn't think she could. It's doubly sad coping with what is effectively the break up of their marriage after 55 years, but that is what the illness has done. (Kind of drifted off my thread of "what to do when visiting".)
  4. snooky

    snooky Registered User

    May 12, 2007
    Hi Carolyn,
    Whatever you do, don't feel guilty. You are obviously doing everything you can and visiting your dad, like me, and we just have to take it from there don't we. My mum, unfortunately, was recently diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, so she too, cant visit dad and although we've explained to him the situation, he doesnt ask after her (and its only been 6 wks since hes been in there). I know that it is the disease, but they have been married for 46 yrs and it seems really strange and I know that it probably upsets mum, but she cant go down at the moment cos of the risk of infection, because of her treatment. My dad is just focused on getting out and asks everytime we go if he is coming out and I dont really know what I am doing, we keep explaining the same things, but he still keeps asking. But he doesnt ask after mum which is difficult. Similar situation to you I think.
    Just do what you can do, after all, thats all we can do and he is lucky to have a loving daughter like you that cares and visits him.
    Take care
    Love Nic xx
  5. alfjess

    alfjess Registered User

    Jul 10, 2006
    south lanarkshire
    Hi Carolynott

    Hope I've got your name right:)

    I find myself in the same position,. Mum and Dad have been together for 61 years and a few months ago they were separated into different homes. It is heartbreaking.

    My Dad like yours appears bored.

    I borrowed and bought books with lots of pictures, about Glasgow (that's where dad is from) in the "olden days" My friend also gave me a book, with pictures about old royal navy warships.

    When I visit, I go through one of the books in the lounge, chatting about the pictures. Sometimes Dad is interested sometimes not, but the other residents sitting around become interested and that creates converstion and stimulation for all of them

    Could you find a book with big pictures, which will maybe interest your Dad and give you something to chat about when you visit?

    I also sometimes visit in his room and play CDs from his era, which he can recognise, eg. Johnny Ray, Frankie Lane etc

    Hope this helps, but if it doesn't never mind, I'm sure someone on TP will find a solution.

  6. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    Hello Carolyn,
    I`m afraid once my mother had lost her language, I usually talked to other residents when I visited. I would stay in my mother`s company, in the hope that once I`d gone home, they would look more kindly on her and give her a bit of attention.
  7. hendy

    hendy Registered User

    Feb 20, 2008
    West Yorkshire
    Hi Carolynlott
    It can be tricky when commnication has started to decline. When we visit Dad he does find it hard to communicate his feelings emotions and wants etc I tend to attend to the practical (usually looking for his glasses, cleaning glasses, checking on things like toiletries/clothes, collecting washing, offering drinks and fruit) I just keep chatting and try to keep the communication going. I suppose this could get irritating to Dad so often we just hold hands. I often take in treats like cream cakes etc(he's diabetic so it really is a treat for him and he still has a good appetite). Today we took in a new Cd i had just bought and I know my dad would have loved (sammy davis jumior, frank sinatra, dean martin). Dad wasn't sure about it but another patient loved it!!
    An important part of the visit is trying to talk to staff about how he's doing, but they're often busy...
    The list is endless I could go on a lot more.
    Hope this helps!
    best regards
  8. Carolynlott

    Carolynlott Registered User

    Jan 1, 2007
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Thanks for all your advice. I'll keep trying. It will be good when the weather improves and Dad can get some fresh air. I always take him a newspaper, though I don't know if he reads it. He seems to be the only person in his home capable of speaking - the others are always either asleep whenever I'm there or beyond communicating.
    He didn't seem bothered when I put his TV on in his room yesterday. In fact I don't even think he knew he was in his own room - he looked at the display of his personal things on the windowsill and said he had some just like that. I'll try some games and music as well. It would be nice if he could sit in his room and watch TV but that doesn't seem to be an option.
    It's his 80th birthday this month - wondering what to do?
  9. lizbet

    lizbet Registered User

    Feb 26, 2007
    north yorkshire

    When I visit George he is always sat in his room usually with TV on, do not think he watches is now, and has a newspaper there. He is always very pleased to see me. Tries to tell me things but as speech is so bad do not really understand what he is trying to tell me. He spends time showing me contents of his wardrobe.
    Do not think he spends any time in the main lounge.
    One reason maybe because they are nearly all ladies. Think he is a bit afraid of them at times. as a point of interest have noticed in the homes that I have visited, there are mostly ladies and very few men. Wonder why that is?? Lizbet
  10. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    I can think of two reasons. 1) Women tend to live longer than men. 2) Women tend to marry men older than them so the men die first.
  11. Carolynlott

    Carolynlott Registered User

    Jan 1, 2007
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    Yes, same at my Dad's home - mostly women. I've only ever seen a couple of men, and they are just sitting asleep whenever I am there. I was told at my Dad's 6-week review meeting that he gets on well with the women: he doesn't really have any choice. I sometimes think that he thinks the poor soul sitting next to him is my Mum. Sometimes when I go and I take him out of the lounge to his room, he talks to whoever he has been sat next to and says he'll be back soon - as if they actually realise he is there.

    It's so sad - I just wish he had someone to talk to. Apparently he sometimes tries to hold the other residents' hands - he always like to hold my Mum's, even at the end. I just wish I was there more for him - it tears me apart that this is happening to him. I just hope that because he is one of the few who can speak that the staff talk to him, and then at other times I think that his mind is in such turmoil that he doesn't know what is going on at all anyway.
  12. alfjess

    alfjess Registered User

    Jul 10, 2006
    south lanarkshire

    I won't even try your name again, as I got it wrong last time.

    Mum and Dad always held hands in the care home. I think it was a secuirity thing.

    When Mum was admitted to hospital, she fixatated on male patients,(another security thing?) which as you can imagine, was a problem in a psychiatric assessment ward.

    Now she has been moved to continuing care, she has yet again become attached to a male resident,(security?) so much so, that she wouldn't allow his wife, when visiting,to come anywhere near him and woulddn't allow the staff to feed him.

    To-day, Mum has a fixation for a female patient. She won't leave her, but she is calling her by my Dad's name. Thankfully this female patient is non-aggresive.

    Sorry, I think I have lost the thread, of this thread, maybe the point I wanted to make was that, dementia sufferers are looking for secuirity

  13. elaineo2

    elaineo2 Registered User

    Jul 6, 2007
    leigh lancashire
    This is not meant as criticism to anyone.When you visit your loved ones,do you read their care plans?I only ask because the change in needs can differ from day to day,and these needs should be documented.My point is that there may be a reason why residents are sometimes unresponsive or unco-operative.These should be relayed to families if significant,but sometimes residents behaviour becomes the "norm" to staff and it can sometimes be overlooked when families visit.wrong.i admit but normal until a relative asks!i suggest when relatives who are documented as n.o.k ,ask for an update or read the care plan.
    love elaine
  14. jc141265

    jc141265 Registered User

    Sep 16, 2005

    As someone who's Dad hasn't been able to talk for many years now (I'm guessing at about 4-5yrs) I completely understand how difficult it is to visit and not know what to do. Worse yet Dad hasn't been able to read, or really do anything much except eat and make eye contact every now and again...and sometimes raise his hands for unknown reasons. For most of his time at the home he could walk and I was very grateful for that, and also he would 'talk' with sounds and noises that had some kind of expression so I would use that as cues for my chit chat.
    Honestly now when I think back, I cannot think about what I used to talk to him about for an hour a day, but I can tell you I know I got better and better at it as time wore on. I remember when I first used to visit I would take props like magazines and photos...but most of the time these pre-planned conversation pieces were not even acknowledged by Dad.
    My tips are, if your loved one can walk then go for walks with them, as when you are walking you can comment on the weather, the trees, the chairs in the way, the rooms of other people you pass, all the while giving them that physical contact i think they need of hand holding and pats to the arm...
    Another thing that can make the time pass is if you schedule your visit for dinner times. For me that was a godsend because Dad needed someone to feed him, so I could spend a good 20mins to half an hour, getting his food, asking him if if it wasn't too hot (not that he could tell me, and I would always check myself), making small talk about what a great apetite he had, etc.
    If I wasn't there for meal times I would also regularly take in treats for him to eat like biscuits or I would make him coffee (this depends on what your loved one is allowed to eat of course). Its amazing how you can talk through making a cup of coffee so it sounds like a normal conversation, even if the other person is not responding. "How about I make you a cup of coffee Dad, why don't you sit down here, now hold on I am just going to go over to the sink and make your coffee, ooh look they've got some nice biscuits here today, its really great how they keep this all so tidy...etc etc"
    It really does get easier over time, I promise. I know when I first used to visit the long silences would kill me, and I would worry about how useless a visitor I was being. But eventually I got good at it. So much so that one evening one new staff member at the home, stopped me when I was walking up the hall with Dad her eyes wide with amazement and said 'I didn't know your Dad could talk!' to which I grinned and replied, 'He can't, but we get along don't we Dad and you know exactly what I am saying and most of the times I think I can work out what you are trying to tell me too.'
    Sometimes I would even say that to Dad, (again it depends on the kind of mental state your loved one is in) but I used to apologise to Dad for not being very good at understanding him, would tell him I would try my best, and maybe he could try to make more noise if I was getting things completely wrong.
    I am thankful now for all those visits because it allowed me to develop a completely different relationship with Dad where I got very good at reading his body language and moods, without needing words at all.
    One other thing, try not to feel too frustrated if they don't seem interested in your world or the outside world, as I found that Dad became somewaht autistic and I assume that is due to the part of his brain that was affected by the disease. Just know its the disease and try not to be hurt by their disinterest.
    Best of luck,
  15. janjan

    janjan Registered User

    Jan 27, 2006
    Hi Carolyn,
    Just an idea for you, I used to take a favorite cake for dad when visiting. Mom an me brought one of them travel kettles, that just boils enough water for two, dad sat in his chair in his room, i used to put his tray in front of him with cake broken in piece for him while i made a cup of tea for us, while i rattled away to him. It held his concentration for a while because he loved his tea and cake.:) occasionally we used to get an extra visitor if someone walked in they had tea and a chat too. :D
    One lovely old chap asked dad if he had any betting odds on the races for the following day, dad just smiled, he only betted on the grand national. Times to cherish.
  16. Margaret W

    Margaret W Registered User

    Apr 28, 2007
    North Derbyshire
    Aren't you all great? There are some really inventive people on this site, I'll read your tips again.

    Mum and I have absolutely nothing to say to each other. Have you heard from the girls? (usually No, but sometimes I pretend that I have). How is Chris (my husband), usually I don't really know cos he has been away on business, so I pretend. And that is it. So a few minutes later we get "So, you've not heard from the girls this week?". Board games, DVDs, TV programmes etc are not on, mum has absolutely no interest - and neither do I!

    I find the half hour visit (try to stretch it to 45 minutes so it seems like nearly an hour!) twice a week is a chore I could do without. Of course that invokes feelings of guilt, but when she was well and at home, I didn't see her even that often. But, she has no-one else in her life, so it is my job.

    No point in talking about the news, she hasn't heard any, and has never been interested. Fact is, mum was only ever interested in cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing, and she has none of that to do any more.

    Sad, ain't it?

    Love to all, keep going for your own relatives, don't mind me!

  17. hendy

    hendy Registered User

    Feb 20, 2008
    West Yorkshire
    #17 hendy, Mar 4, 2008
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2008
    Hi janjan
    What a brilliant idea to take in your own kettle and have a proper cup of tea!! Simple but ingenious and how civilised. My dad also loves coffee but the stuff he gets on the ward is in horrible chewed up old plastic cups. I could even take in my cafetiere with some really good cuban ground coffee. It also saves you having to bother staff when they're so busy.
    I'm definately trying this one out next time
    kind regards
  18. Taffy

    Taffy Registered User

    Apr 15, 2007
    Hello, my mum still knows me as someone familiar, sometimes I'm her mum or sister and occasionally she gets it right her daughter.

    Mum is similar to your dad there is nothing interesting to talk about she'll just ask the same questions, How's everybody up home? It looks like the weather is closing in, something she just remembers to say.

    Mum is also very keen to get back to her routine which is usually sitting in the lounge....sleeping. If I can keep mum distracted for 1/2 hr I consider that quite good.

    Try not to see it as something personal as I think that sometimes with the nature of this disease it's more to do with being focused on routine which they become very comfortable with. Routine seems to ease their burden.

    Take Care, Love Taffy.
  19. forgetmenot

    forgetmenot Registered User

    Jul 6, 2007
    my mother is in a care home and she sometimes gets my age wrong - why aren't you at school? I am nearly 43 now. I play cards with her, but she can only remember one game which is very strange. I have also bought her a subscription of "Down your Way" which is a monthly magazine based on the area she used to live to get her talking. It is difficult at times and yes I agree not always ideal in the lounge.
  20. Mameeskye

    Mameeskye Registered User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Things I have done with Mum in the home

    Found early on that chats were one-sided unless you were discussing something in the present so would have abook for a hobby, in Mum's case Needlecraft and we would discuss the different projects (It was amazing how much she was oing to do when she felt better!!!) We had a book of pitctures of the UK from the air and could discuss places we had been to and whether the pics were pretty, we would watch favourite films on dvd (I've lost track of the number of times I have sat thourgh Fiddler on the Roof)

    SOmetimes we would jsut have tea and look out of the window and discuss the houses and cars and the pidgeons!

    As the disease progressed we would look at pictres and I would read a few things from her paper out loud (Prefaced with oh, I haven't seen the paper, may I have a look..then would read out a few articles and we would chat ..how awful, how nice etc.)

    Sometimes one of the staff and I would chat and Mother would jsut sit alongside and listen, she did enjoy this. We would sit at the front door so we could say hello to everyone coming in and going out (always surprised me how many of them knew Mum by name)

    Lately I put on the radio/TV if not on already in her room. I bought her a Tom Jones CD for Mothers Day. She used to like him and I no longer know what she hears, sees and understands in this world.

    Sometimes I jsut rub handcream in now to let her feel touch and to know that there is someone there.

    Margaret w, just a thought will the staff in your Mum's home let her help with the housework. Maybe you would then be able to give her a "hand" as it were. If it is something that she has always done maybe she misses it. I know my Mum did at first. SHe usedf to set the tables and clean them afterwards.

    Going out is the easiest visit, for a lunch, coffee, look at the flowers, look at others gardens, shopping expedition (for ladies whose Mums like shopping for clothes, run in the car etc.)

    These were fun even if latterly I did used to feel very nervous if Mum was out on her own with me in case she wandered off as I was paying or getting food in the self service restaurant and the garden centre. Mind you that was fun as we could look at all the plants too!

    I have always thought that I would like to do a booklet for relatives for when their loved ones go into care describing things that you might be able to do together. Visiting can be hard and I know that my Brother has never coped with it but some suggestions for things to do, rather than jsut being expected to "know" what to do could be very helpful.

    Sorry, this seems like a novel now. I hope I haven't bored you (if you are still reading!)

    Visits can be fun


    PS Maybe I speak with a prejudiced eye as I had toddlers at home when Mum moved to the NH and I was always guaranteed a seat and a cuppa in peace - I had to learn how to extend visits!

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