Whether you’re the primary caregiver for Mom or Dad, or you live out-of-town and are planning a special visit, you’ve probably felt the strain of anticipating what often turns out to be an awkward visit. If your parent’s memory isn’t good, conversation can be difficult. And if the world has shrunk to a single room and a predictable routine, it can be hard to think of new things to talk about. Add to that the guilt you feel — about not wanting to go, about not going often enough, about letting your parents grow old — and your visit can easily become a source of stress.
But a little preparation can ease a lot of pressure. Try these ideas:
1. Don’t go alone
Ask a family member, friend, or pastor to join you. That way you won’t have to be solely responsible for keeping the conversation going.
2. Plan your visit during a scheduled activity
You and Mom can participate in the activity together. Providence communities publish a calendar of activities and events each month. They post these publications to their Facebook pages, or you can ask to receive the info via email each month.
3. Help with daily tasks
Use your time together to open mail, sew buttons, make labels or other memory cues, schedule doctor appointments, review upcoming events on the calendar, or water the plants.
4. Do some research
Before your visit, call a family member who lives out of town and ask questions about what he or she has been doing. Then relay that information to Mom and Dad during your visit.
5. Talk about your children — bring them with if possible!
Or talk about kids in your neighborhood or church.
6. Ask for advice
Ask Mom or Dad’s opinion on how to fix something, where to plant something, how to deal with a difficult co-worker, where to go on vacation, etc. It’s a great way to make your loved one feel involved and valued.
7. Ask about favorites
You can start with basics like favorite food or favorite color, but then expand to things like music, restaurants, movies, recipes, seasons, holidays, animals, days of the week, jobs, sports, books, etc. Share your own favorites too!
8. Share a story
Bring a book or newsletter along and read it out loud during your visit. If your parents’ eyesight is diminished, they might particularly appreciate “reading” like this.
Give yourself permission to keep your visits short. It’s not the amount of time that matters; it’s the time itself. So 30 minutes of time with Mom might be the perfect amount. In fact, you might feel that you can visit more often if the visits are shorter.