Grandchildren of elder adults who live in nursing homes have much to offer in the way of love and support, even if they do not realize it. Young people are a source of joy for the elderly, and young family members all the more so. Remember, the benefits of grandchildren-grandparent relationships run both ways. Nursing home visits are beneficial for children of all ages because they gain lasting memories through shared experiences with loved ones as well as familiarity with Older Americans.
The trick is for parents to facilitate successful exchanges. That means making sure their child and elder parent are both comfortable and prepared for the experience. Parents should educate children about what to expect at a nursing home and accompany them on their visits. Answering questions and helping them process their feelings after seeing grandma or grandpa is also a healthy way to get the most out of an interaction.
Keep the age of the involved grandchildren in mind. Children from the older elementary-age and into high school tend to appreciate the value of contributing to an older person’s life. Bear in mind, however, that for babies and toddlers this will be hard, if not impossible, to understand. It is also important to make sure that grandchildren under the age of five are allowed to visit. Some facilities do not allow it, due to potential health issues on both sides. If younger children are allowed, remember to ensure they are well-fed and rested prior to a visit, as high-strung needs can detract from the bonding opportunity.
Parents should also plan ahead and not just drop by a nursing home on a whim. Coordinating with caregiving staff can help the elder grandparents keep to their daily routine and avoid causing unnecessary anxiety.
Depending on what your goals are, grandchildren can be present and minimally involved during a visit, or more actively engaged. Encourage them to show off their talents, read a book, create crafts, play games, or eat a meal if they are inclined to do so. Learning how to interact with Older Americans is a valuable lesson for children, and it can also be fun. Take the time to learn about the elder adult’s interests, limitations, and needs before visiting, and make sure to bring items to support any planned activities.
One of the biggest barriers to young and old coming together is the difficulty in communicating. Be ready to speak to both the child and older person’s needs to keep things flowing in a positive direction. Make a plan for communication in advance and if you need ideas do not hesitate to ask us. We know how critical these visits are and how challenging they can be. Remember to ask us any of your elder care questions, whether it is now or in the future. We can help you plan forward, not only for this issue, but the majority of the challenges you may face with a loved one receiving skilled, long-term care.