Tips for Successful Holiday Visits With Loved Ones In Nursing Homes

Visiting family over the holidays can be awkward, and even more stressful when a loved one is a nursing home.

One state's Office for the Aging offered some advice to make holiday nursing home visits successful -- and tips for making sure a family member is getting the proper care.

Be attentive to the resident's appearance and demeanor when visiting, said the state ombudsman. "Do they appear clean and appropriately dressed?" he said. "Do they appear well-cared-for?"

In New York, for example, 160,000 people reside in nursing homes and residential homes. Each year, the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program sees a spike in complaints about the facilities after the holidays. The state has nearly 1,000 volunteer ombudsmen who visit homes, protect residents' rights and mediate complaints made against nursing homes. The ombudsman program handles 15,000 complaints a year; 87 percent are resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the ombudsman said.

If you see a problem, bring it to the attention of the administration immediately, he said.

"Clearly identify what the problem is, approach the administrator or director of nursing or a social worker in the facility to express the problem, indicate what you think would be an appropriate solution and ask for a time frame in which it will be corrected," he said.

Other tips for a successful visit start with calling ahead. Find out the best time to visit, and if there are any holiday activities that would be fun to join. If you are taking a nursing home resident out for a meal, a drive or an overnight stay, make arrangements with the nursing home in advance. Avoid visiting when your family member usually naps.

Think carefully about the gifts you bring.

One admissions coordinator for a nursing home has seen some poor gift selections ranging from candy for diabetic residents to fancy wool sweaters that don't survive the laundry machine. Campbell offered these gift suggestions: postage stamps, slippers, fleece blankets, small radios, wireless headphones for the TV and gift certificates to the home's beauty shop.

For nursing home residents who had give up a pet to go into the home, see if you can bring the animal for the visit, she recommended. For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.