How can we make visits to the nursing home easier on us all?

6 answers | Last updated: Nov 04, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

We have recently moved my boyfriend's grandmother into a skilled nursing facility. Prior to this we were the main caretakers (he is the POA) and between the two of us we were pretty much with her 24 hours a day for the past few months. Now we are having a difficult time going to visit her. When she was at home she would tell us she wanted to go home but now it is even worse. Sometimes when we visit we try to assist in her caretaking, like trying to convince her to eat or take her pills but this often escalates until the point she is extremely agitated and sometimes physically violent. Sometimes it seems like we can trigger some of this when we visit so we have been trying to call ahead to see what kind of state she is in before we come.

My boyfriend especially is having a hard time coping with this and blaming himself when the upsets occur. He has been working relentlessly to try to figure out a schedule of when the best time of day is to visit but this isn't always consistent either. Do you have any tips on how we can make these visits more enjoyable for all parties involved?

Expert Answers

Maria Basso Lipani writes a popular website on geriatric care topics, where she puts her expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to good use answering care planning questions. Maria is a graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work and is licensed in California and New York.

The best advice I can offer you is to give it time. Transitions are tough for all involved. The decision to place a family member in a nursing home is one of the most difficult – particularly if the older adult prefers to remain at home.  Often it takes time to accept that there was no other way (logistically and/or financially) to ensure their safety and adequate care.  Sometimes a nursing home is often the only option.

Based on the level of need you describe, it sounds like your boyfriend did the right thing - for himself and for his grandmother. Support him if he is second-guessing himself and encourage him to allow her time to adjust to the new surroundings and routine. 

Community Answers

Puzzles answered...

goodMorning Anonymous,

Your question on how to make your visits to your loved one more enjoyable is precisely ONE of the reasons I developed Memory Jogging Puzzles and Memory Exercise Cards. Please read:

Dear karen,

I worked in a Nursing Home for 27 years before I retired. I worked in the Activity Department and began using the memory jogging puzzles after my retirement when I started Volunteering at Day Care and Retirement Homes.

The caregivers kit has been the best thing that I have ever seen to keep a residents attention and get them to reminisce about themselves and others from the past years.

I would recommend every Activity Director have this kit in there department for a weekly activity or an extra for I know it is a crowd pleaser and will put smiles on everyone’s faces. It’s easy and makes everyone talk and visit with one another.

Thank you so much,

Birdie Scroggins, AD, CAP

For more information:

A fellow caregiver answered...

I know how hard this is for you to do. It does take time and sometimes a little help from some medication for depression. Once your Grandmother starts to get into a routine and she starts to meet people it will help. Can you decorate her room? Bring in her favorite chair, TV, photos? Just go in and don't ask her to do anything that will upset her. If she is angry hold her hand and tell her how much you love her. Take baby steps-then leave. Just keep on coming back. There won't be any good time until she adjusts. She is afraid.

Puzzles answered...


If you could only step into her shoes for a day and experience the frustrations, fear and anxiety... I feel you would have more compassion and patience towards her.

It must be horrifying to be in that situation, having everyone looking at you, and asking... surely you remember this or me? do this do that... and five minutes later they may not remember the conversation.

You had mentioned her medication, I would think it would be up to the caregivers at the center to assist with her medicine. (otherwise she may take too much or not)

Perhaps the next time you go visit, you take something - a game that the two of you can do together. Something with interesting pictures that you can talk about or laugh about. Not a drilling time, a fun time.

If she doesn't play the game right or you don't understand what she is talking about... don't correct her, it is just a game... go with the flow. time is precious... make some memories you will enjoy... rather than thinking back about the bad moments you have spent.

It's a new year... time for change... takeCare.

Sylvia garrity answered...

my mom is now bed bound-stuck in her mind and in a body that won't work anymore-shoe was in a Horrifying "care "facility" called "the consulate"-on llewwllyn ave in norforlk va-don't take your dying rat there-i never worked so hard and wondered when she'd get Care again after i left-the staff for the most part-at least on her floor were horrifying the executive director was REALLY SOMETHING ELSE and the social worker was SO burnt out if you Blew on him black pieces of toast floated thru the air-it took Them 32 days to Completely RUIN my mother-she's in a great home now-had she been there before that hellhole she'd be a whole different person-and that's only maybe a tenth of the story-the only reason she was moved to this better place was because of what i told Anyone i saw that my mother is failing and her care is ATROCIOUS-this includes the exec director, burnt out social worker and director of nursing-you could tell by the looks on their faces they damned me to hell and just wanted to go to another useless meeting to get a paycheck-she ended up in the er- i begged them to take her for a week before she went in-i know what to do and when They relax[-i WILL TAKE ACTION- and WIN

Sylvia garrity answered...

you will adjust-as long as she's being well CARED for-this is a horrible time in your lives and her's too-i hope and pray you all come together and get close and loving-life is a lot shorter than we'd like to think-check Everything out and check her body too-even her pubic area and rear- how all that looks will help tell you A LOT