The holidays are swiftly approaching, and with the holidays come visits from Mom and Dad. Mom or Dad may spend all year looking forward to a trip home from the nursing home or assisted living facility, and we look forward to having them visit. But sometimes it can be a tricky thing to pull off smoothly. Don’t let problems catch you by surprise. Take a little time to prepare and you can enjoy your visit much more.
What’s For Dinner?
Dad is probably looking forward to a home-cooked meal, and who can blame him? But make sure you know about any dietary restrictions he has. Is Dad a diabetic? Does he have kidney problems? Does he have problems chewing and swallowing? Dad might be able to tell you himself about what he can and cannot (or should not) eat, but if not, check with the nurses at the nursing home or assisted living facility. You could also ask to talk to the dietician there. If Dad does have dietary restrictions, you may be able to modify family favorites so he can eat them. For instance, you could bake with Splenda instead of sugar, if Dad is a diabetic. The dietician should be able to give you some tips.
Do You Have The Supplies You Need?
If Mom or Dad have special needs, make sure you have the supplies you need. One example that comes to mind is incontinence supplies. If Mom or Dad is incontinent, you’ll need adult disposable briefs, like Depends. The nursing home may send you home with some, if you ask them. But find out ahead of time, so you can buy your own if necessary. You might also want to purchase some latex exam gloves and baby wipes to help with changing Mom or Dad.
If it’s going to be a short visit, you may not need certain supplies that you would need if Mom or Dad will be staying for a few days. This includes things like dressing changes or colostomy supplies. Talk to the nurses at the nursing home or assisted living facility ahead of time to find out what things you’ll need and whether the nursing home will supply them or if you need to go out and buy some yourself. Make sure you find out ahead of time, though. You don’t want to have to try to find a place to buy colostomy supplies on Christmas Eve.
Don’t Forget Mom’s Medication
If Mom is just coming for dinner, she probably won’t need to take any medication while she is with you. She can take her medication before you pick her up or she can take it when she gets back to the facility. If she’s going to be with you for a while, though, you may need to make sure she gets her medicine. Ask the nurses at the nursing home or assisted living facility if Mom will need any medication while she’s with you. If she will, they will provide you with what she needs. You will not need to buy a prescription at a pharmacy. Make sure you ask how much she needs to take and when she needs to take it. Also ask if there are any special instructions, like if she should take the pills with food or on an empty stomach.
Doing What Needs Done
How much help does Mom need with things like toileting? If she needs help, do you know how to do it? For instance, do you know how to safely transfer her from a wheelchair to the commode? And are you physically strong enough to do it? You can handle this in several ways. If you don’t know how to help Mom with things like transferring to the commode, changing Depends, or emptying a colostomy bag, ask the nurses or the aides at the nursing home or assisted living facility to teach you. It’s not that hard to do, once you learn. They will usually be happy to teach you, but you’ll need to ask them.
If you think you’ll have a hard time doing these things for Mom during her visit, you can hire a home health aide to come to your home to take care of it for you. Just look under home health care in your local yellow pages and call to ask about private duty aides. You will probably have to pay out of pocket for the service; Medicare or heath insurance usually will not cover this.
When Grandma Has Alzheimer’s
Of course we want to have Grandma home for the holidays, but if Grandma has Alzheimer’s, we need to take special precautions, and we need to seriously consider whether a visit home is in her best interests. Sue Sharpe of Greenhills, Ohio, says her family brought Grandma home every year for several years, but finally decided it was better not to. “She was getting more and more disoriented and confused. I think it was hard for her to be out of the familiar surroundings of the nursing home. She got so agitated the last time that we decided not to bring her home anymore. Instead, we would all go visit her on Christmas Day. We took presents and cookies and stuff. She handled that much better,” Sue says.
If you do bring Grandma home, be aware that she may be confused. Her behavior may seem strange. What to expect will depend on how advanced her Alzheimer’s is. People with Alzheimer’s reach a stage where they begin to wander. They may wander outside in the snow in their pajamas and develop hypothermia or frostbite. They may wander outside and get lost. Some families put an alarm on the door that will go off if Grandma tries to wander outside. You can purchase a simple battery-operated alarm at most hardware stores, if you need one. Talk to the nurses at the nursing home or assisted living facility about any special precautions you need to take to keep Grandma safe during her holiday visit.
If Dad Is Flying In From Out Of Town
If Dad is flying in from out of town but lives independently, not all of these things will apply. After all, if he lives independently, he probably won’t need you to change his Depends. Still, taking the time before the visit to ask about any dietary restrictions or special supplies or help he might need will make the visit go more smoothly.