It’s hard to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Teenagers, for example, have no idea what it can be like to be a parent, and most middle-aged parents have no experience with the challenges of elder age. As you can imagine, when it comes to visiting an elder parent in a nursing home, there can be plenty of do’s and don’ts that adult children should be aware of, and many of them may come as a surprise.

First, it is important for adult children to plan their nursing home visits in advance. Aging seniors do not have the same energy levels as younger people and interrupting their daily routine can throw them for a loop. Although this may not seem like a big deal, habit often becomes very important to our aging loved ones. Dropping by when it is convenient for you might seem fine, because you know your parents and grandparents would love to see you, but this action may be looking past an elder parent’s limits. The solution is to plan ahead and talk to the care team at the facility. Mornings are usually the best time to engage older seniors and setting a reasonable time limit can allow them to stay on track with their regular activities.

Once you plan your visit appropriately, make sure to create the conditions for a successful connection. That may mean calm, accommodating behavior in a setting with limited distractions, as opposed to bringing pets or rowdy kids with high-strung needs. It also may not be a good idea to bring large groups of people, as it may be overwhelming and cause anxiety.

Bringing a thoughtful gift is a great way to break the ice and spark conversation, but adult children should resist the temptation to bring foods and beverages that are either unhealthy or prohibited. Bringing sweets or sneaking in a favorite food might create short-term enjoyment, but it may not be in his or her best interest. Start first by checking with the nursing home staff and care team so they may answer your questions.

Adult children should similarly refrain from interrupting an elderly parent’s activity time, sleep schedule, and meal routine. Outside of unannounced visits, well-meaning adult children can accidentally do this by staying too long. Even if things are going well, extended visits can undermine the care an elder loved one needs. Be mindful of this and plan a return visit.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum on your elder care questions for yourself or your aging loved ones. We are here to support you and your family now, and throughout the year.