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What should you expect when you visit a care home?

If your relative or friend has recently gone into a care home, you may be feeling daunted at the prospect of visiting them. You may feel worried that you’ll get upset in front of them, or that they won’t recognise you when you walk in. You might be anxious about what to talk about, or how you’ll feel if the home or staff aren’t what you expected.

It’s OK to feel like this, and completely understandable. However, it’s also important to realise that your loved one is coping with a huge change in their lives, and that seeing a friendly face will make all the difference to how they feel about being there. Getting to grips with what to expect when you visit a care home can help you put things in perspective, and feel more confident about your visit.

Support from the care home

A care home is supposed to be precisely that – a home. Your loved one should be able to welcome your visit just as they would have when they lived in their own place. Staff should be friendly and approachable, and should help you make your visit a success.

Talk to the home before you go, and find out what times of day are likely to be quietest. It’s a good idea to avoid meal times or planned activities, as this will be essential time for your loved one to bond with other people in the home. Most care homes allow you to take pets and children along with you, but it’s probably a good idea not to overwhelm your loved one on the first visit.

Tips for your visit

It’s likely that your visit will not be a very long one, as the day is often fractured into various activities, meals, baths and naps. Short and sweet is a good strategy, so here are some helpful tips to let you both get the most out of your time together.

Find somewhere quiet: Care homes can be busy and busting, and that can be distracting for both of you. If your loved one is hard of hearing, conversation in a noisy environment is going to be tricky. See if you can find a quiet lounge, or head out into the grounds for some one on one time.

Bring something along: Older people in care homes can become almost obsessive about their conditions, aches and pains, and whilst it’s good to take an interest in their well-being, it’s also beneficial to provide a distraction from it too. Take a photo album, a newspaper to read to them or some music to listen to, to take their mind off their ailments.

Be patient: If your loved one has just gone into care, or is living with dementia, they may not behave quite as you expect. They could be tearful, depressed or even angry with life. Don’t take it to heart, as this is just the illness talking. Even if this visit is a complete disaster, just brush yourself off and try again another day.

Talk to the carers: The care providers should be open and honest about how things are going, and should also be receptive to your concerns and suggestions too. Leave time to speak with a member of staff at the end of your visit, and relay any issues or feedback raised by your loved one to them.

Visiting a friend or relative in a care home could make all the difference to their state of mind, so don’t put it off. Care homes are welcoming, friendly places on the whole, so try to put all your preconceptions aside and just go for it.

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