Visiting a parent, family member or friend who has moved into an Assisted Living Community can be a rewarding experience for both parties. Like getting together with other family members or friends it is helpful to know the ways in which we can connect with the person we are visiting. Common interests such as hobbies, recreational activities, books, movies and places recently visited can often bring friends together and stimulate conversation. Also, shared family experiences from the past can invite a warm, familiar atmosphere.
So with a bit of preparation, we all can enjoy visits with friends and loved-ones. Below we’ll discuss some tips for starting conversations that will lead to meaningful exchanges. Once you have these in mind for a visit or two, your time together will become more natural and most probably less stressful.
Plan for shorter visits rather than longer ones
One thing that keeps us from visiting with family and friends often is the feeling that we need to set aside the whole day for the visit. While some relatives and friends might prefer a longer visit, many others will agree that a short get-together can be ideal. If you can stay for only an hour or so and visit more often, it may avoid trying to arrange for longer visits that keep getting pushed back, due to scheduling conflicts.
Bring something that can trigger positive memories and make a connection
It can be meaningful to bring a memento from the past to help spark memories from shared experiences or family stories. It might be a photo album of past vacations or a copy of a favorite book or a magazine with photos of a hobby. Sharing positive memories and stories can be heartfelt and rewarding.
A common source for pre-visit anxiety are mixed feelings about difficulties that family members or friends are currently experiencing. To mitigate this, bring a mental list of topics you can discuss that will focus on the positive. Then if the family member opens up a difficult topic you can move to that, actively listening and responding to the emotions being expressed.
Ask for help or advice with something
No matter our age, all of us have a desire to feel needed and useful and listened-to. One good idea to consider is to find a current topic that you can ask for advice on or help with. For example, if you are thinking about getting a new car, you can ask which car others might think you should get. Or you could ask for help doing something that the other folks are good at, such as home repair, cooking or tips on using a cellphone. Showing that their opinion and advice is valued will be a boost to their confidence and help to support a stronger relationship.
Talk about children, friends or other family members and their activities
This topic is quiet common, but most older family members really enjoy hearing about the young-ones in the family. If it’s happy news about good grades or another achievements, it is great to share. Even if it’s news about a challenging situation then it can make for a good topic, and if advice is asked of the elder adult, then it’s even better.
Leading the conversation in positive directions
It’s true that lots of people love to complain about things, but even so, it’s probably best to keep that to a minimum if possible. When you visit your family member you should think about positive things to mention, such as how good they are looking, how comfortable their home or apartment is, or how well they manage life situations. By starting in this way, you’ll be more likely to blend the conversation into other things that will generate good feelings.
The thing to avoid is getting started on a list of complaints and gripes. The difference between mentioning that someone is looking well compared to asking about aches and pains is significant. It’s important to demonstrate that you are actively listening and sympathetic, but no one is likely to feel better if your family member is encouraged to list all the negative things on their mind of late.
Ask for stories from when you were too young to remember
Among the many wonderful things that can come from bonding with aging family members is that we can fill in gaps in our own stories. Many of us wait until it’s too late before we realize that older family members have interesting stories that relate to us as well. For example, “How did they meet their spouse?” or “What made them interested in their line of work?”.
Nearly all of us love to tell a story from our past, especially when it’s to someone who specifically asked about it. Having one topic like this ready in case the conversation starts to drag can be extremely helpful in guiding the conversation to a good place. There’s a good chance you’ll end up learning something unexpected while making the family member feel valued at the same time.
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