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Visiting A Care Home – How To Make The Most Out Of Your Visit

Wellcross Grange


If you have a loved one in a care home it can often be hard or uncomfortable to visit. It can be common to feel worried about visiting someone, especially if they have dementia as you may not know how they will react to your presence. 

Or perhaps you worry that you’ll feel helpless and upset when you do visit. Maybe you don’t know what you could talk about? 

If these sound like they might be you, you may benefit from the following advice. We’ll help you understand what you can do to get the most out of visiting a loved one in a care home.

How long and often you should visit a care home

The first thing is to work out when you should visit your loved one. It may be tempting or even more convenient to go in an evening after work. However if possible it’s best to visit during the middle of the day. Evenings can be difficult as your loved ones will likely be tired and can become irritated more easily. 

You might think that the longer you stay the better. However, we find that shorter quality visits rather than longer visits are better for residents. A 30 minute visit spent laughing and chatting is better than an hour long visit where conversation runs dry and becomes awkward. 

Tips on planning your day at a care home

To get the most out of your visit for both yourself and your loved one you might want to try following these simple rules.

Call ahead, if you’re unsure of how your loved one is feeling then call ahead. They will be able to give you an update and let you know if your loved one is up for a visit or not. 

If your loved one has dementia, you may need to think about how you will greet them. Sometimes it can be best to use their first names rather than Mum or Dad.

During your visit, if you’re able try turning off any background noises so that you and your loved one can focus on each other rather than the radio or TV.

If your loved one is up to the task, try planning a nice stroll together. Being outside and active can have a real positive effect on people, so give it a go if it’s an option.

If you’re able to visit regularly, you might want to start up a little project together. Something that you can look forward to working on each time you’re able to pop in. 

This could be anything. But jigsaws, knitting, tapestry and collages all work as great projects you can both work on.

Advice on what to bring with you to a care home

Another way to help stimulate conversation, especially with individuals with dementia is through the use of props.

Props can be a fantastic way of igniting a memory with your loved one. You might want to consider bringing some of the following items with you when you go visit. 

These are items which often help retrieve memories for older individuals. 

Photographs are great. They will likely trigger memories which you can reminisce about. It may also help them remember their old selves and make them feel happy and confident.

Magazines or books are great. If you’ve shared a particular article or story together in the past, you may think about reading it to them. This will help make your loved one feel comfortable and assured. 

You could also bring in activities or board games. Bringing in any favourite activities or board games can help bring back fond memories. Maybe it’s a favourite jigsaw puzzle you can slowly but surely complete together. 

Flowers are also a great item to bring in. Not only can it liven up your loved one’s room, but often the colour and smell can spark memories too. 

Managing expectations 

Finally, in order for you to get the most out of your visit it’s important to keep your own expectations in check.

You’re there to create moments of joy together. 

Try not to overthink it, instead just enjoy your loved one’s company and help them appreciate your visit.

Don’t underestimate your presence and how important it might be for your relative that you’re just there. Simply sitting and holding hands can be all it takes for your visit to be worthwhile.

So remember, you don’t need to fret about a visit, just simply being there can be enough to make a huge difference.

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