Tips for Caregiving: Visiting a Person Who is Frail

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Margo Rose and her friend Mildred

It can be very awkward knowing what to do during a visit with someone who is in frail condition. I know this from experience since once a week I have been going to see my 98 year old friend Mildred who is blind and recovering from a recent fall. Our visits have been very sweet.  Here are a few tips that have been helpful for me.

Create a regular schedule as much as possible.
Each Saturday at the same time, I either come to see her or phone for a chat. It is a time we can both look forward to, and even when I get busy, it reminds me to check in at least once a week.

Keep visits short.
When a person is in fragile condition, it is hard to predict how much energy they will have. Short, warm visits (perhaps a half hour to hour long) are probably of greater value to someone who is not feeling well.

Find a good “opening line.”
Asking “How are you?” or “What’s new?” to a person who is suffering from a lot of pain and boredom will not start a conversation off in a good direction. Unless you are actively needing this information to help make medical and other choices on their behalf, look for another way to greet them.

Try starting with a statement like, “It is so nice to see you again!” “I was thinking about you this week,” or “This article (product, food, item of interest) reminded me of you. Would you like to learn about it?”

affordable home care services for seniors senior citzen care for older people companion home care in Minnesota non medical senior care in home help for seniors citizen care help for senior caregiversPlay to their strengths.
Which of their five senses (sight, taste, hearing, touch, smell) are functioning best?
In Mildred’s case, she is blind and movement is very limited. Her mind, though, is in perfect condition! Mildred enjoys gentle massage, having a window opened for a fresh breeze, hearing her favorite music, and on occasion, enjoying fresh fruit from the farmer’s market.

Mildred’s mind is exceptional at any age! She was preparing for her 98th birthday party recently, and during one of our visits, she asked me to get a piece of paper and pen so I could write down her guest list. Effortlessly, she rattled off the name of each person who was coming, where they were flying in from, and which people were still deciding whether or not to bring a guest. It is easy to compliment and celebrate with her that she is such a smart and capable woman.

The most important tip is…Let the person you are seeing lead the visit!
They may prefer to be cheered up and entertained by stories from your life or discuss whatever is on their mind. If they want to tell stories from their past or be brought up to date on current events, try to participate with them.

Can you help them gain benefits from using modern technology?
Mildred is delighted by all the functions of the Internet and smartphones but needs help accessing it. We play on my phone constantly during our visits. We look for songs she remembers from her youth, comedy routines to laugh with, and interesting bits from the news.

She also asks for me to look up information about her former boyfriends and what they went on to do with their lives. When she requests to look up what year they died, I hesitate but remember that she is in charge of our time together and that my role is to serve her in any way I can.

Allow time for your own reactions after you leave.
It can be very emotional to visit with someone who is not feeling well. You may feel drained, uplifted, sad, grateful, or any combination of these potentially conflicting emotions.

Because during your visit you are focused on their needs, it is important to schedule as much time as possible afterward for your own honest reactions to emerge. Instead of moving immediately to your next activity, take time for a walk around the block or even just to reflect a few minutes alone in your car before actually driving off.

Here is a Healing Technique from Body Aware Grieving that may assist you before moving on to the next part of your day: Healing Technique: Transition 10.

in home care Minneapolis home care companies respite for caregivers at home caregivers care for older people eldercare at home home help for the elderly affordable home care services for seniorsTwo goals are important for feeling a visit has been “successful”.
A) Did the person you went to see have a better day because you were there?
B) If it turns out this becomes the last time to see this person, are you at peace that you have been as kind as you were capable of being to them?

Hopefully a few of these suggestions are useful to you and the people you are helping to care for.  Are there other ideas and examples from your own life that you can share with me and other readers?

If you would like to learn more about my magical and feisty friend Mildred, please check out these previous articles I have written about her.

Functional Fitness from 17 to 97

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Margo Rose

June 10, 2016

 

Margo Rose care for older people help for senior caregivers resnior citizen care senior companion careMargo Rose is a fitness trainer, author, and upcoming radio show host. She has created a system of self-care called Body Aware Grieving that helps people avoid accidents, injuries, and stress-related setbacks during times of loss or grief.

Margo Rose’s first book: Body Aware Grieving, A Fitness Trainer’s Guide to Caring for Your Health During Sad Times is now available on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Body-Aware-Grieving-Fitness-Trainers/dp/0692459189/ …

More info, blog and podcasts on her website: http://www.bodyawaregrieving.com/ 

For bulk discounts on books, or personalized consulting Margo can be reached by email: http://www.bodyawaregrieving.com/contact/ 

Follow her on Twitter @BodyAwareGrief: https://twitter.com/bodyawaregrief 

Follow her on Facebook: https://facebook.com/BodyAwareGrieving …

 

 


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Comments (3)

 

  1. It is interesting that you brought up creating a regular visiting schedule. This is something that I definitely think both people would benefit from, and it makes visits happen. Playing to their strengths is something that I have never considered, but this is really valuable advice. The next time that I visit someone like this, I will be sure to take their strengths into account, thank you!

    • admin says:

      Brooke, thank you so much for reading! I’m glad you found this article helpful. When I was visiting a friend who was dying from cancer, I also found these ideas helpful and was thrilled when Margo Rose wanted to share this with our readers.

  2. Margo Ros says:

    Thanks for your comment, Brooke. This is Margo Rose author of the article. Another important benefit of scheduling regular visits with the person who is frail, is that it can help minimize regret should the person actually passed away.

    I wrote this article because so many people avoid visiting someone they care about because they feel awkward and don’t know what to say or do. Later they may wish they had visited more often which can make a grieving process even more difficult.

    Few people will ever regret telling someone they care about “I’m thinking about you. I care about you. You are important to me.”

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