5 Tips to Make the Most Of Your Visits with Seniors
By Cristin Coffey, Mon Ami Companion
Whether you are a companion, caregiver, grandchild, or friendly neighbor, visiting with seniors is an intimate time. Sometimes, however, it can feel difficult to connect on a personal level. You may not know the senior well yet, or the senior you are visiting could have a cognitive impairment like dementia that makes connecting more challenging. For example, I have a Great Aunt who is in her late 80’s, and when I was a child our visits were always special and unique to our relationship. Unfortunately, as she gets older she is beginning to forget our past and feel less close to me. I found that these five tips help bring back some intimacy to our visits and might help you feel like you’ve known someone for years.
#1: Set Their Favorite Music As the Soundtrack of the Visit
If you are meeting this person for the first time, try asking individuals in this person’s life what their favorite type of music is. Even better, ask the senior themselves what they enjoy listening to. If you know this person, like I know my Aunt Pat, go ahead and just put on what you know they like. Music is a great way to bond, it brings people together and helps with long silences. Not only that, music brings back happy memories that are personal to every individual. It can have them remember happy times and this can make the energy in the room shift from awkward to comfortable. Create a personalized playlist for them on Spotify!
#2: Look Through Family Photos
One thing all people enjoy, not just seniors, is looking through old family photos. Looking at photos of yourself young, happy kodak moments, and times where things seemed perfect can be very personal to share. You may start off showing some of your family photos to make them feel more comfortable sharing theirs. This can be from your phone, tablet, or even better, actual physical photos to share. This way it is not just the senior who is opening up, but you as well. Getting to know someone else’s family is very special because you get to learn where they come from and some of the most important people in that person’s life.
#3: Bring Them Your Favorite Dish
Growing up, I was always taught to never arrive to a house without a gift. This gift could be as simple as a thank you, but why not take it a step further and share with them something extremely intimate…food! It really is a win win situation. You get to eat your favorite food, the other person gets to feel special, and a personal bond is formed. It could be as easy as baking your favorite cookies or your homemade soup.
#4: Ask Them Personal Questions
People love talking about themselves, it makes us feel wonderful to have someone to listen to our stories. Working as a companion, I got to learn about a senior’s American family history dating back to the Civil War. He was even able to show me a discharge letter his distant grandfather received from the Civil War. Feeling stumped for conversation? Check out our 27 Conversation Topics with Seniors here. This can make it easier than trying to think of topics on the spot, not everybody is good in the hot seat.
#5: Reminisce About Your Favorite Times Together
This last idea is more for the readers who already know the senior. Some older adults have a hard time remembering, and all they need is a little nudge. My go-to move with my Aunt Pat is pointing to the painting I made for her when I was young and asking her if she likes it. In case you’re wondering, she loves my painting of a quiet meadow! When I point out the painting above her bed, it’s like she is just noticing it for the first time. She grabs it and tells me that when she first received it, she took it everywhere with her. Aunt Pat took it to the doctor’s office, her neighbor’s house, and her book club. She feels closer to me because it is a physical object she can touch and match to my presence. If you’re visiting a senior you’ve just met you can talk about things you want to do together. This allows the senior to look forward to something and this will allow you two to make new memories together.
Developing a close, personal relationship with someone takes time and patience, You can do it! Smile, and you’ll be sure to make someone else smile too. #MonAmiSmiles