COLUMBUS - Nursing home visitation is not limited to friends and family, nor is it limited to the holiday season. Visits help residents maintain connections with their communities and have a high quality of life. The Ohio Department of Aging has declared Dec. 24-31, 2011 as the sixth annual Visit a Nursing Home Week in Ohio and encourage all Ohioans to use the time between Christmas and New Year's Day to continue a tradition or develop a new habit of sharing their time and compassion with residents all year long.
"All over the country, nursing homes' approaches to care are transforming in some very positive ways," added Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the department. "Facilities throughout Ohio are embracing person-centered care, which honors and respects the voices of residents and those working closest to them. Nobody gives up the right to request and receive visitors in order to receive the care they need, nor should they."
Any time of year, a visit from a family member, friend or even a kind stranger can brighten someone's day and offers the opportunity to contribute to another person's well-being. An estimated 60 percent of nursing home residents have no regular visitors, a situation that can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. These feelings can be amplified during the holiday season as their thoughts drift toward family who have gone before them and holiday celebrations and traditions that are only fading memories now. A visit from a loved one, or even a relative stranger, can help alleviate the loneliness.
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 the facility would welcome a visit or presentation by your place of worship, school, youth or civic group. Learn about visiting hours, gift or food restrictions and their policies on children and pets. Find facilities in your area by visiting the Long-term Care Consumer Guide at www.ltcohio.org.
Your local long-term care ombudsman's office also can help you plan your visit and can answer your questions about residents' rights. Ombudsman staff can explain how you can become more involved in ensuring quality, person-centered care by becoming a volunteer ombudsman associates. Call the Office of the State Long-term Care Ombudsman at
1-800-282-1206 to learn more and get connected to the ombudsman in your community.
Tips for visitors:
- Call ahead to schedule your visit at a time that is convenient for the facility residents.
- A resident's room is her home; please approach it with that in mind. Knock before entering, introduce yourself and ask before sitting on her bed or chair.
- Tell the resident about your own life or ask easy questions to get the conversation started, 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 able to talk to you, but they still appreciate the sound of another person's voice telling stories, reading to them 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 places of worship, 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 works to ensure that our elders are respected as vital members of society who continue to grow, thrive and contribute. We work with state agencies and community partners, including area agencies on aging, to help integrate aging needs into local plans and ensure that aging Ohioans have access to a wide array of high-quality services and supports that are person-centered in policy and practice. Our programs include the PASSPORT Medicaid waiver, caregiver support, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
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