Senior Life 101

For years, one of the most difficult activities in my life, and one that I tried to find every excuse I could think of to avoid, was visiting an older sick friend or loved one, especially if they were in the hospital or a nursing home.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care, or that I didn’t want to see them, but rather it was a fear that I wouldn’t know what to say, and the fact that such places just made me uncomfortable.

However, as I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize just how selfish and inhibiting this attitude and fear had become in my life. So much so that I’ve been deeply convicted and convinced that I need to change and overcome this fear of visiting.

And frankly, I suspect that I’m not alone … that others also struggle with these feelings of inadequacy and fear.

So how does one go about making such “change”?

We first need to confirm that the person we’re visiting desires our visit, and then be convinced that our visit will be encouraging when we do. In other words, be able to envision your visit as making a difference in the life of your friend or loved one.

Second, understand that a visit doesn’t require that you have to do all the talking. In fact, the more you are able to engage your friend or loved one in meaningful conversation, where you explore things that are of interest to them, the more fulfilling the time will be.

Third, understand that it’s not how much time you spend, but the quality of time that matters. Often spending too much time in a visit can be less helpful than just a few minutes. Be flexible, and be aware that your friend or loved one simply needs to know that someone cares, and that your being there is how you communicate that fact.

Finally, make your visits a priority, not just an obligation. Plan ahead. Put it on your calendar, and make it as important as any other appointment you schedule.

Once you commit to overcoming your fears, and feelings of inadequacy, and genuinely reach out to those in need of your love and attention, you need to be aware of how to make your visits as meaningful as possible.

So here are a few tips on how best to plan your visit:

When to visit: Telephone ahead and request permission to visit. Or, when you are visiting, set a time together for the next visit. They may feel more energetic or social at certain times of the day. If you establish the time together, the visit will be more successful.

In addition, they can look forward to your arranged visit, which extends the pleasure. But remember, they may decide not to have you visit and you must respect that decision.

Preparing for the visit: Once the date and time has been established, you should give some thought to what you will do when you get there. If you plan ahead, you may avoid an unsatisfying visit filled with complaints. And remember … your plans will depend on the mental and physical status of the person you’re visiting.

The visit: Unless the person you’re visiting is a close family member or friend, knock before entering and ask permission to enter. If the person is unable to respond, then announce yourself before walking in.

Greetings usually involve some form of physical contact. Think for a moment about what the quality of your life would be if no one ever touched you except to bathe or toilet you. Touching tells us that we are accepted, human and desirable. Once in the room, make some form of physical contact unless it is absolutely inappropriate.

If out of bed and alert, the individual might like to go outdoors or to another part of the hospital or nursing home. On the other hand, a private visit just reminiscing may be preferred.

We have a great opportunity to make a difference in the life of one who is in the hospital or nursing home, but it requires leaving our “comfort” zone and reaching out by visiting them when they need us the most. I hope you will.



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