The Visiting Schedule: What Seniors at Nursing Homes Actually Need

If your aging parent lives in a long-term care community, you may worry you don’t visit enough, as you juggle career, family and community obligations. But, how often should you actually visit? As with most things in life, there is no one-frequency-fits all answer.

The frequency of visits should be based on both your loved one’s needs and your personal schedule. While once or twice a month may be doable and sufficient for some families and situations, others may need less or more frequent visits. Consistency is key so your loved one knows what to expect, and doesn’t feel disappointed when no one visits for extended periods, or doesn’t get overwhelmed by multiple visits in a short time period.

When your elderly mom or dad first moves into an assisted living or long-term care community, your natural instinct may be to visit daily or multiple times a week to aid with the transition, ensure they are well taken care of, and perhaps to alleviate your own feelings of guilt and worry. While well intentioned, your constant presence may actually prevent your parent from acclimating and making new friends.

Ask staff’s opinion on a good visit schedule and times of day, and quickly establish a routine. If other family members plan to visit regularly, work together to spread the visits evenly throughout the week or month. Consider your loved one’s needs. If they love Wednesday night bingo, ask if they’d like you to join or if they’d rather have time to enjoy the company of other residents.

Studies show quality of the visits matters more than frequency. Keep your visits consistent and when there, focus on your loved one. Put away your electronics, unless you’re sharing family photos or videos, and be present in the moment. Pay attention to your loved one’s emotional state. If they’re getting tired or agitated it may be time to say goodbye. For some, especially those with dementia, shorter visits may work better. Others, especially in assisted living, may enjoy less frequent but longer visits, so you may enjoy activities together.

Finally, remember you’re not alone. You and the staff at the senior living community should be partners in keeping your mom or dad happy, not only by figuring out the optimal visiting schedule but also helping you staying in touch between the visits. At Seven Acres and our assisted living residence – The Medallion, our staff is always available to provide updates, help set up a video call, or just pass along a greeting and a hug.