If a loved one has just moved into a care home, you can help the person settle in as swiftly as possible. You may feel sad or guilty, but you definitely have a part to play in helping them.That said, it will take some time for them to adjust and settle in. The more support you can provide as they do so, the better. Here are six things you can do to make the process easier:
Build rapport with the staff
Make an effort to get to know the staff caring for your loved one, as well as the management team. Let them know how much you care about the person and how you will do your best to visit as regularly as possible.
You know the person. You know their likes and dislikes. My mother used to hate loud, noisy environments. When the main lounge in her home grew noisy, staff knew to move her into her own room for some quiet time, where she could read or watch TV in peace. On the other hand, a person who likes company may have struggled with being alone. Make sure staff understand what makes the person tick and what aggravates them, so they can avoid anything that will affect their mood in a negative way. Mum also hated anyone speaking too loudly, and often reminded staff she wasn’t hard of hearing! Sharing information about the person’s hobbies will help too. My mother loved dancing and enjoyed watching Strictly. Staff knew this, so they always made sure she was able to watch it every week.
Not only will this benefit your loved one, but it sends out a very clear message to the care home that you love the person and their wellbeing is important to you. Regular visits will also benefit the person and improve their mood and general wellbeing. Many people think there’s no point in visiting a person who has dementia if they are unlikely to be able to remember the visit or conversation. Some family members steer clear for this very reason. I disagree with this completely. Even if the person doesn’t remember the conversation or even remember your visit, they will have benefited in some way. Care home staff reported that my mother was always in a better mood and seemed happier after I’d been to visit, even though she didn’t always remember I’d been to see her. She felt happier, though she didn’t know why. The main point here is that my visits made her happier. That’s what truly matters.
Offer stimulation during visits
When you visit, conversation may be difficult if the person is unable to follow or make conversation. Avoid asking them questions about what they’ve been doing during the day as they may not remember and this may frustrate them. Instead, talk about what you’ve been doing, but don’t overdo the detail. You could take magazines or picture books with you and look through them together. My mother loved cats, so I would take books with lots of cat pictures. I’d show her the pictures and ask her to choose her favourite cat. It would always brighten her mood. It meant she could speak freely and say what she was thinking and not have to remember anything.
Avoid visits during busy times
Now and then it may be inevitable but try to avoid visiting when the person is eating breakfast or lunch or last thing at night when they may be tired. My mother was a late riser, so I never visited her before lunchtime. Any earlier would have been too stressful for her. Work out what works best for the person and the home itself. Try to be consistent with visit times.
Be tactful if you complain
From time to time you may visit the person and find that the level of care or attention may not match your expectations. Care home staff can be overworked, even in some of the better care homes. If you do need to raise a concern, make an appointment to see the manager and have a discreet conversation. Focus on the practical nature of your concerns, rather than taking an emotional stance. Quite often you’ll find the manager will be keen to address the situation. Staff can be well meaning, and it may just be the home was short-staffed on a given day or the person caring for your loved one lacked appropriate support. Be polite but firm. This way, the staff will be more likely to respond to your concerns in a positive way. Tell the manager that you want to work together and are keen to support the home to provide the best possible care, so that you can all work together as a unit.