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Ohio Department of Aging Press Release

Dec. 16, 2010

State encourages individuals, groups to visit nursing home residents year-round, not just during the holidays

Fifth annual Visit a Nursing Home Week is Dec. 24-31, 2010

COLUMBUS - Because nursing home residents' needs for visitors and social interaction doesn't end with the holidays, the Ohio Department of Aging and the Office of the State Long-term Care Ombudsman designate the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve each year as Visit a Nursing Home Week. By working with facility management, local organizations and advocates for residents, state officials hope to send the message that visits to nursing homes by individuals, families and groups help brighten the residents' day and enhance their quality of life, thus shouldn't be reserved just for holidays and special occasions.

Visit A Nursing Home Week 2010 Logo shows a younger hand clasping an older hand with the words: 'Because passion shouldn't end with the holidays.'"Residents of Ohio's nearly 1,000 nursing homes are individuals with thoughts, feelings and needs for socialization, just like you and me," said Barbara E. Riley, director of the department. "Many of them are isolated from the ones they love and, while they appreciate the fellowship many people share by visiting during the holidays, they also would probably love regular visits year-round."

Contact your local nursing homes and ask for social services, activities or administration staff to inquire about residents who would welcome a visit. Or, ask if they would welcome a visit or presentation by your church, school, youth or civic group. Learn about visiting hours, gift or food restrictions and their policies on children and pets. You can find facilities in your area by visiting the Long-term Care Consumer Guide at www.ltcohio.org.

"By visiting a nursing home and its residents, you can bring them joy and help them stay connected to the community and the world around them," added Beverley Laubert, the State Long-term Care Ombudsman. "But perhaps more importantly, you have the opportunity to support excellent care by becoming an advocate."

Besides just visiting a nursing home occasionally, another way to become an advocate is to volunteer with your local ombudsman program. Volunteer ombudsman associates make regular visits to assigned nursing homes, record observations about the facility and engage residents in conversation. They ask about problems or concerns residents may have regarding care and services provided at the facility. Associates make residents feel comfortable and let them know they have an advocate on their side. Call 1-800-282-1206 to learn more.

Additionally, you can join the national Advancing Excellence campaign, which is an initiative of care providers, consumers, advocates, government agencies and others that helps nursing homes make a difference in the lives of residents and staff. Visit www.nhqualitycampaign.org to learn more.

Tips for visitors:

  • Call ahead to schedule your visit at a time that is convenient for the facility residents and staff.
  • Approach a resident's room as if it was their home. Knock before entering, introduce yourself and ask before sitting on their bed or chair.
  • Tell the resident about your own life or ask easy questions to get the conversation rolling, such as: "Did you ever play football?" or "Do you like dancing?"
  • Don't worry if you run out of things to say or if your visit is short - it still is appreciated.
  • Residents with dementia may not be very verbal, but still appreciate the sound of another person's voice telling stories or just sitting with them.
  • Some residents may mistake you for someone else; consider it a compliment and don't bother correcting them.
  • If asked for help with water, food or assistance moving around the room, get a staff member.

Tips for nursing homes:

  • Reach out to community groups who may want to visit. These include churches, senior centers, scout troops and high school theatre and music groups.
  • Identify residents that might enjoy a visit so you're ready with suggestions when visitors call.
  • Identify a staff member or resident to be an official greeter for visitors.
  • Instruct visitors on anything they should know about facility rules and the resident or residents they're visiting.
  • Plan activities or crafts that visiting children can to do with the residents.
  • Help residents get ready to receive a visitor; they may want to look extra nice.
  • Have some token of appreciation for the visit. It can be as simple as coffee and cookies in the lobby or a thank you card signed by the resident or residents.
  • Add visitors to your family or community newsletter. Give them an activity calendar and invite them to attend.
  • Thank visitors and invite them to come back.

About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging provides leadership for the delivery of services and supports that improve and promote quality of life and personal choice for older Ohioans, adults with disabilities, their families and their caregivers. Working with 12 area agencies on aging and other community partners, the department offers home- and community-based Medicaid waiver programs such as PASSPORT, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.