I can imagine you must feel frustrated with your family for not making more of an effort to stay connected to your father. People have several reasons why they don’t make time for a visit: they may be too busy, feel like they have nothing to say, or even find senior living facilities uncomfortable. Unfortunately, your siblings are missing an opportunity to spend time with an aging parent who is not going to be around forever, one who could benefit greatly from those visits. Let’s consider how visiting seniors can make a big difference in their physical and emotional health.
The Value of the Visit
Seniors as a demographic are more prone to isolation, especially if they are aging in place at home. As their peers and older family members pass away, they often feel alone. Those feelings of loneliness can lead to a decline in their cognitive ability or even depression and anxiety. When you visit your loved one, he or she can be engaged and feel appreciated.
A visit doesn’t have to be an all-day affair. Even a quick pop-in can brighten your loved one’s spirits. Aim for quality time, not quantity (of) time. You’ll both enjoy the time spent together even more if you don’t seem impatient or ready to bolt out the door. Just inform your loved one that you can only stay a moment or two, and then stick to the boundary you set. Maybe you can tie it into any errands you run on their behalf; dropping off essentials or getting prescription refills may give you or a sibling a clear reason to stop by.
When visits are difficult, such as when dementia makes conversation challenging or relationships are strained, focus instead on other ways to connect. Bringing a special treat, listening to music, or looking through photo albums can all allow you to interact without relying on chit-chat to pass the time. In fact, simply holding hands can provide gentle human touch for an elderly person who may not receive physical affection often.
On a Mission
Another important reason for visiting seniors on a regular basis is to ensure their safety. Observe them and their environment to get a sense of what’s going on. Is your loved one clean? Has he or she lost weight? Are medications being administered properly? Do they seem happy? By visiting frequently, you can clue in on any changes in their health, hygiene, cognition, and mobility. After all, an emergency alert system can only respond to so much, but laying eyes on your loved one can tell you so much more.
Checking in on seniors may even prevent some forms of elder abuse. If your loved one is at home, you can tell if any unnecessary work has been done at the house, follow up with chores or bill paying to make sure no unusual banking activity has occurred, and look for any unusual bruises or scratches. Abuse can also occur at a facility, and the staff and administration can get the message that you are involved and aware when you show up and ask questions.
From a Distance
Your family members may have legitimate reasons why they can’t visit frequently, especially if they work or live out of town. Encourage them to reach out in other ways. Sending cards or letters are a no-brainer, and everyone loves to receive mail. If your senior is computer-savvy, email can let him or her know you are thinking of them. Sending flowers or a plant, especially without a special occasion, can also be a lovely surprise.
Perhaps one of the easiest things to do is just pick up the phone and call to say hello. All it takes is a few minutes for a quick call so they can hear your voice. Better yet, set up an internet video call if you can. Imagine how much your loved one would enjoy a video chat on a laptop or mobile device so they can see those faces they miss so much. A Skype or Facetime call may take a bit of coordination, but every once in a while, that extra step could make your loved one’s day.
You can pass on some of these suggestions to your siblings or other family members and let them know that they can still make memories with your father while giving you a break from being the primary contact or caregiver. Hopefully, they won’t see your request as a guilt trip but rather what it is, a mutually beneficial and fleeting opportunity for visiting seniors while they still can.
Best of luck!