By Nitayuna Stewart, Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center
There are many stereotypes when it comes to nursing homes. People in the community do not fully understand the benefits of their loved ones being in a nursing home. Many assume that moving into a nursing home means that the people are disconnecting from the community and they are giving up their freedom, which is not the case. When family members put their loved ones into a nursing home, some may feel like they are not able to do things with their loved ones. Many family members find it difficult to visit their loved ones in a nursing home because they do not know what to say or how to make the visit meaningful. When visiting a loved one in the nursing home, your presence is just enough. Family members often forget that their loved ones still have some of the same interests they had prior to living in the nursing home. The family member can provide opportunities for reminiscing, pet visitation, and doll therapy to make the most out of a nursing home visit.
When visiting a family member, always plan a head of time. Bring items such as photo albums, pets, favorite music, recipe books, or food. Take them on outings, bring puzzles and games, or even help decorate their room so that they can feel important. It will also help to bring flowers from your garden if you have one, or “just because” flowers. Watching some of their favorite TV shows with them could provide socialization and a sense of nostalgia. Many nursing homes have a courtyard, where family and friends can visit and take their love ones out to walk or stroll around, or they can sit in a rocking chair and talk about different things that they see outside or things that are going on in the family. Family members are also allowed to take their loved ones out on outings such as to the park, to the zoo, to the mall, back to their home for family functions, to get nails and toes done, and more. Family also can bring games or books that they know their loved ones would enjoy. If they are unable to read, purchase audio books that could be read to them. It’s also important for the family member to remember that the nursing home always provides activities, and they are more than welcome to participate in the activity with their loved one. Family members could join in for morning exercise program, devotion, and other activities that are offered in the nursing home throughout the day.
Pet visitation can be very beneficial to your loved one as well. Pet visits make people feel better emotionally and physically. When a person interacts with pets, it can lower blood pleasure and provide stress relief. It also reduces boredom and decreases anxiety. If a loved one is not able to respond verbally, he or she may respond with a smile, eye contact, or touch. Pets also provide entertainment for the resident because they like to watch animals’ reactions to things. Pet visitation also can improve their mood by triggering the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Pets are known to bring happiness to people everywhe
Reminiscing can increase a person’s ability to communicate. It can also provide relief from boredom and decrease the potential for undesirable behaviors. Reminiscing also helps with reestablishing life meaning for a person through connections of their past life. When visiting your loved ones try to start a conversation that connects with their five senses. For example, taste: do you remember your favorite recipe to cook, and how did it taste? Smell: do you remember how fresh baked bread or biscuits smell? Touch: bring different things to touch such as quilts or crochet items they have made, pets, and also fidget blankets with different textures, buttons, and zippers. Provide hand massages with warm water and nice-smelling lotion. Sounds: bring their favorite music that they love to listen to and talk about why it’s their favorite. What do they like about this song? Did they ever play an instrument (depending on the instrument, family could bring it to see if they can still play)? What emotions that come from playing the instrument? Sight: bring a photo album — seeing older picture of themselves and family can bring so many good emotions and memories to your loved ones.
Doll therapy involves providing a lifelike doll to a person with some form of dementia. They can care for and interact with the baby doll.
Using a baby doll or a teddy bear can be an effective way to decrease certain behaviors. Many people with dementia or a form of dementia, will lose interest in things around them, and at times aren’t able to do their regular activities of daily living. Once a resident has a baby doll or teddy bear, they return to their nurturing instincts. Residents often act as a mother/caregiver by engaging in such caregiving roles such as feeding the doll, changing the doll, swaddling the doll, and rocking the doll. Having an opportunity to interact with a baby doll helps alleviate frustration, anxiety, restlessness, agitation, and at times will help resident sleep at night. Having a baby doll can help with the reduction of crying episodes, increase in your loved ones psychosocial wellbeing, increase smiling, and improve their socialization with their peers. It also can increase someone’s autonomy (being able to engage and care for the baby doll on their own). Many caregivers think that doll therapy could be very inappropriate for their loved ones with dementia. However, dementia is a very difficult disease that many people, including caregivers, do not fully understand. Residents or family members who interact with a baby doll on a daily basis are usually in the middle or late stage of dementia. In the nursing home facility, the staff has lots of testimonials of how great doll therapy can be for some of their residents. We have a resident who exhibits a great deal of emotional distress. She yells at other residents and staff, and takes other residents belongings. Staff will provide her with the baby doll, and ask her will she like to go outside. The baby doll immediately gives the resident a sense of calmness, need, and responsibility. She gives the baby hugs and kisses; she lays the baby on her shoulder. She eventually starts back socializing with her peers and showing them her baby. Doll therapy can be one of the best therapeutic interventions for people living with dementia, depending on their stage in the disease process.
So, make the most of your visit to family members in nursing homes by providing them with an engaging activity that will be beneficial to them. Be prepared and do not stay away. Use any of the activities suggested in a simple or more creative way. The important thing to remember is to try bringing back memories and create an environment for them to stimulate their mind.
For more information about Bedford Care Centers, visit our website at bedfordcarecenters.com and like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/bedfordcarecenters.
Director of Activities
Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
Nitayuna Stewart is the Director of Activities/Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where she is instrumental in building the Activities Program at Bedford.
She is proficient in developing treatment plans and programs that meet the needs and interest of her patients. She also plans and implements Recreation Therapy (RT)interventions to support the client in meeting his or her goals.
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