elderly person holding hands of family memberAfter making the decision to place a parent in extended care, it’s only natural to feel a sense of guilt.

That feeling can understandably come into play when it comes to answering the question: How often should I visit?

The answer varies. You want to show them you love them and haven’t forgotten about them, but you have other time commitments with family, friends and work. Each family's situation is different, but by working together, you and your parent can develop a system that works for everyone and preserves your family connection.

Perhaps you’ll want visits to be more frequent as your parent gets accustomed to their new home, then slowing to a more manageable but consistent basis as they get more comfortable and meet new friends.

Consider the following tips as you work through this transitional time:

Don’t forget to take care of yourself

You know the saying “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself?” There’s truth to it in this situation as well. A happier, more well-balanced child will be a better support system to an elderly parent in a skilled nursing facility than one who’s stressed, guilt-ridden and stretched too thin.

Remember, it’s the quality of time you spend with your parent that’s most important rather than the quantity. If you manage to visit Mom or Dad every day but neglect your other relationships, work and hobbies, you could begin to resent your parent. That isn’t beneficial to anyone and doesn’t bode well for your relationship down the road. These other aspects of your life are just as important as your parents' needs. Make time for them.

What does your parent really want?

It may be a surprise, but after the discomfort of leaving their home and moving into a new and unfamiliar community wears off, your parent may be having a ball in their new home! Depending on their health and abilities, they'll likely make new friends, integrate into the social scene, enjoy alone time, go on trips, and more. It’s even possible that visiting too often might cramp their style!

Find balance by sitting down with your parent on a regular basis to discuss your visits. Be open to their response while also considering your own needs. If your parent is suffering from cognitive decline or has diminished mental capacity, listen carefully to what they say, but also look at what they really need. Ask staff for feedback on what they’ve seen, noting whether your parent seems lonely or content when you’re away.

Make the most of your visits be stopping by when it’s more conducive to them. Are they a morning person? Do they need a nap in the afternoon? If you have doubts, phone ahead and ask the staff – maybe there is a planned activity you can take part in together.

Make sure you don’t have regrets when they’re gone

If you feel confident that you will be happy with the frequency of your visit, you are likely on the right track. If not, then consider increasing how often you visit while you still have time.

When you’re visiting, let them know how much you care by holding their hand, making plenty of eye contact. Limit distractions or time on your phone. Let them know that you’re there for them. Ask them questions – you may be surprised by all the new things you can still learn about your parent, despite all the years you’ve shared together.

Visiting your loved one can help alleviate their loneliness, reduce stress and just make life happier. Chances are you won’t regret making time to make their time in their new home more enjoyable.

For more information on services at Embassy Healthcare communities, call 888-975-1379 or contact us online.