December 12, 2006
Advice for Children Visiting Nursing Homes During
During the holidays, many individuals visit their loved
ones in nursing homes to spread good cheer, participate
in seasonal activities, and celebrate the love or
friends and family. Some of these holiday visitors
include children who may be unprepared for the realities
of a long-term care setting.
a nursing home can be a very rewarding and enjoyable
experience for young and old. With a little forethought
and planning, parents can help make this visit a
successful one for their kids. To help these parents,
the Illinois Council on Long Term Care, an association
of nursing home professionals, offers the following
recommendations on helping children connect with nursing
home residents during the holidays:
with your children about what to expect during a
nursing home visit, such as seeing residents in
wheelchairs or others who may be unresponsive.
Answer any questions or concerns your children may
have. Discuss their feelings about visiting older
by the children’s section of your local bookstore.
There are several good children’s books available
that address understanding the elderly. Reading this
type of book with young children can help in making
them more comfortable with visiting a nursing home
to plan the visit a week or two in advance. The best
times to visit are generally mid-morning,
mid-afternoon and early evening. Be sure to contact
the elder or the elder’s caregiver to ask him or
her what time of the day would be best.
ahead of time about some possible activities that
could involve the elder and the children. Bring any
needed supplies with you to the visit. By
participating in an activity, the children will feel
more comfortable and engaged, and will walk away
having had a better experience. (Creative activity
ideas are listed below.)
their visits, children may need some gentle
encouragement to overcome their shyness. The parent
can offer some questions to get the conversation
going, such as asking their kids to discuss their
hobbies or participation in school sports teams.
Young children could introduce their favorite toys
to an elder as an icebreaker.
the visit, talk about what happened and what the
children felt. Be sure to answer any of their
questions openly and honestly.
are some creative activity suggestions for the visit,
including many that are holiday-focused:
decorate the resident’s room for the holidays.
familiar holiday songs. Bring along some song sheets
and a cassette player if possible.
a favorite book together, including holiday stories.
If possible, bring over a book in large print.
simple tree ornaments or other craft projects.
together a small scrapbook of family photographs.
over some holiday catalogs and ask for the elder’s
advice on choosing gifts for family and friends.
in a facility activity program together. Contact the
facility’s activity director to discuss upcoming
the senior for a walk around the facility, and enjoy
a meal together.
cards, checkers, matching games or board games.
over family photo albums to spark memories and
conversation. Or, take some new family photographs
together at the facility.
an activity together related to the family’s
religion, such as reading stories from the Bible or
other religious texts.
in items related to the elder’s interests.
For instance, for a male nursing home resident who
is a car buff, the children could bring in model
cars, car magazines, glossy dealership brochures, or
give a tour of the family’s new car. Have the
children use these items to spark conversation.
the children bring a small gift for their loved one.
Possible gifts could include hand lotion, brushes,
combs, note cards, stationery, framed family
pictures or large print books.
the children “interview” their elderly relatives
about their lives. Work together with the kids ahead
of time to prepare a list of questions. Consider
recording these responses on videotape or
importantly, don’t make the holiday visit just a
one-time experience. Both the elder and the children
would benefit greatly from continuing these visits
throughout 2007. An ongoing series of visits allows for
a true relationship to develop, helping children to
connect with the elderly in many meaningful ways. These
visits will provide young people with important life
lessons that pay off for years to come.
The Illinois Council on Long Term Care is a
professional association of nearly 200 nursing
facilities committed to quality residential health care
in Illinois through a productive and responsible
partnership between the private and public sectors. The
Council represents more than 26,000 nursing home
professionals serving more than 37,000 residents.
Helpful information for seniors and families can be
found at the Council’s Web site www.nursinghome.org.