You’ve signed up to be part of the teams who are going to a variety of senior residential facilities. Assisted living/ Skilled Nursing facilities are larger buildings that tend to have anywhere from 60-250+ residents. Board and Care facilities are homes that hold no more than six senior adults. This instruction sheet is meant to orient you and give you further guidelines for your visit.
- Cookies and more –Feel free to bring some cookies or other snacks for the seniors and their caregivers.
- Your team – For those visiting an assisted-living facility, larger teams of anywhere from 8-15+ may go and serve. For Board and Care facilities, no more than 7 members to a group would be recommended.
- Location of B&C –As a reminder, when looking for your chosen Board and Care remember that most of them will not have signs outside identifying them as a senior home. They will look just like any other home in the neighborhood.
- Time – Most senior facilities will take visitors no earlier than 10 AM and no later than 5:30 PM. Please be sensitive and limit your visits to no more than 30 minutes.
- What to bring – Bring hand sanitizers. Feel free to bring a musical instrument that might be helpful in making your visit a joyful one. If you wish to read a poem out loud or a short children’s book, that would also work well. Photos showing your family, sports or craft that the kids enjoy doing, or any other photo that you can use as a conversation starter might be helpful. Of course, the cookies and other baked goods and flowers are a welcome gift to both the seniors and their caregivers. These caregivers are hired staff and usually not Caucasian. Please be sensitive to them, as well. Ask them what’s their ethnic background (most of them are Filipinos) and how long have they been caring for these seniors. Try to engage with them, too.
- What to do – Upon arrival, please sanitize your hands so as not to get the seniors sick. Sanitize your hands again after your visit. Introduce yourselves to the caregivers. In most cases, the seniors in Board and Care facilities will all be in the living room. In the larger assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, they will usually gather all the seniors into a recreation or dining area.This will simplify your visit.
However, when you’re there, please ask the caregivers if there are seniors who cannot leave their room. Try your best to visit those, as well and bring your “program” to them. Speak loudly and clearly to the seniors. During one of my visits with some families who had young kids, we had all the children line up and give the senior adults a hug. The seniors absolutely loved this. We did remember to ask the caregivers and seniors first if it’s alright if you hug them. Some of the seniors have very painful medical conditions where even a tender hug could cause some pain. Instruct everyone to hug gently. Ask the seniors if you can hold their hand while you’re talking to them. Most of them do not experience human touch apart from having someone change their clothes, so a tender touch means so much to them. Make sure to warm your hands before touching them since they’re very sensitive to the cold. Feel free to sing to them. No need for an instrument to use as a background. Even acapella would be much appreciated. Others who are not as comfortable with singing can simply talk to the seniors and ask them some questions such as:
- What type of music do you like?
- Did you use to work when you were younger? What did you use to do?
- Did you always live in California? Do you have family close by?
Tell them about you and your life, but speak to them at their level. Kneel closer to them so they don’t have to tilt their head to see you. You can also bring one or two pictures of your family or your pet and talk about that. Kids can bring pictures of them playing sports or doing an activity they like so they can show the picture and tell the senior adult about them. Some of the seniors might not be interactive at all. Please relate to them, anyway. Music has been known to one area of the brain that dementia cannot destroy. Also, dementia patients have been known to have “windows of alertness”. You just don’t know if they’re cognizant at the very moment you’re sharing with them.
What not to do - Please prepare the children for what they might see. Tell them that some of them might not be able to hug them back because of some sickness or physical limitations. Some of the seniors will probably not be what they imagine their grandma/ grandpa would be. Tell them to keep negative comments to themselves. Instruct them to smile and be friendly. Many of these seniors remember their own children and grandchildren when they meet other young kids. This is such a key opportunity to bless them. Try not to stay in the B&C longer than 30 minutes. The seniors get tired very quickly.
After your visit – Debrief with your team after the visit.