When your loved one enters a skilled nursing care facility, you may feel uncomfortable about visiting him/her. But there’s no reason to feel timid about visiting family or friends who are being cared for by skilled nurses.

Should I Visit Someone in Skilled Nursing Care?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes! Although it can feel difficult or intrusive, especially during end-of-life care, these moments are precious and beneficial for both the patient and the visitor. Visiting someone in skilled nursing care often helps his/her health and gives the visitor both positive memories and an opportunity to embrace the process of grief from the start, in instances of hospice care.

What Should I Do When I Visit?

Base Your Interactions on What You Know About Your Loved One – Some visitors believe they must talk constantly when visiting someone. It may feel like you need to say something because you are both sitting in a room, but your physical presence is more important than activity. Give your loved one the opportunity to share his/her thoughts and feelings with you by asking questions that require open-ended rather than “yes” or “no” answers – How do you feel today? What did you have for dinner/breakfast/lunch today? What activities did you participate in today? Which activities do you want to participate in tomorrow? How did you participate in the painting activity today?

Or you can share family information and news, show new family photos on your smartphone, look at old family photo albums together, and even show your loved one a video of family or friends saying hello to your loved one. One family we know helped two aged sisters, both in long-term skilled nursing care in different states, stay in contact by using their smartphones to digitally record video “letters” of the sisters talking about how they are doing, and even singing old childhood songs to each other! The joy these simple videos brought to both sisters kept them close despite the distance between them. Another family member shared a weekly Bible study with her aged mother to help keep her faith strong despite being unable to attend her church. And some family members visit merely to watch major league sports games on TV with their loved ones, cheering on and/or agonizing over the events of the games. Yet other family members visit regularly to take their loved one on a short drive around the community or to get an ice cream cone.

Be Patient – Depending on the reason for an individual’s stay at a skilled nursing facility, his/her periods of lucidity and conversation may be interspersed with periods of sleep or zoning out. This is natural. Don’t try to fill the space, just be present for them.

Ask for Help – There are moments that are too much for visitors. The staff at a skilled nursing facility is there for the residents. If you encounter too much pain, frustration, or other issues, ask a nurse for help.

Come at Your Time – You probably know that hospitals have specific visiting hours. These do not apply in the same way to residents at a skilled nursing facility. Visitation rights at a skilled nursing facility are focused on the resident, especially when immediate family is concerned. If holding your spouse’s or parent’s hand while he/she is asleep feels right, you have the right to sit with him/her through the night. Quality rather than quantity is most important to your loved one. He/She knows you care enough to visit no matter how long or short each visit is.

What Should I Avoid When I Visit?

Visiting While You are Ill – Bringing disease into a skilled nursing facility can negatively impact your loved one as well as other residents. Please do not visit if you are sick, even if it is just “the sniffles” or a cough.

Feeling Shame – There may be many negative emotions during this time, but do not let them motivate your visits. If you find intense regrets or grief overwhelming your visit, take a break. If needed, seek counseling.

Visiting a loved one in skilled nursing care can be a great aid to his/her recovery and return home. At Pacific Care Center and The Terrace Assisted Living Community, we value the interest and attention our visitors provide for our residents. If you have questions about visits or other topics important to your loved one’s care, please call us at 636-271-4222 and discuss your loved one’s needs!