How often should I visit my parents in assisted living?
Now that you’ve made the decision to move your parents into assisted living, or if they’ve just moved in, one of the first things you’re probably thinking about is how often to visit them. Daily? Once a week? Once a month? And the natural instinct is to think that the more visits the better. But, the real answer to how often you should visit them is…it depends. Your parents and their situation is unique. So is yours. That means it will be a very individual decision, and there’s a few things you should consider first to make the best choice for everyone.
Have you talked with your parents?
If your parents still have the capacity to engage in a conversation about visiting preferences, I think they are a great place to start. Find out what they want and need in the beginning, and also be prepared with what is doable for you considering your other life obligations. At our homes in Nevada, we have family members who live locally, as well as others who live far away. Your proximity will play a part in the discussion. Come to a compromise that takes both yours and your parents’ needs into account. I also want to encourage you to revisit the conversation after the initial adjustment period for your parents. Their wants and needs may change at that point and you can adjust your visit schedule. Open communication will help everyone feel comfortable with how visits are arranged from the very beginning to later down the road.
Have you coordinated with the care staff?
The staff of the assisted living facility is another important resource to tap into when figuring out how often to visit. While your parents, or even you, might feel like more visits are needed, the staff can provide more objective insights to how your visits are really impacting your parents. Contact them after your visits to see how your parents are really doing. Do they become more difficult after you’ve left? Do they withdraw from their usual activities? Do they become re- energized after the visit is over? All of these insights can help you figure out if your visit frequency is working, should be increased, or maybe even decreased.
You can also coordinate with the staff to experiment with different visit lengths, different days, or during certain activities to find the best fit. As you try out different options, the staff can keep you informed about what’s working well and how often. Those clues will help you design the right visit schedule.
Are you giving your parents space to adjust?
The perfect balance for visits is one that allows your parents to get comfortable in their new surroundings, their new daily routine, and the new people around them while also giving them the comfort of seeing a familiar face. If your visits are too frequent during the adjustment period, they might not fully engage with their new environment. If they are too infrequent, the changes they are facing may become too overwhelming for them with no one they trust to guide them through it.
I think that this is another great place to enlist the advice of the care staff as they’ve been observing how your parents are making the transition. If your parents are adjusting quickly and very active in their new community, you may find a once or twice a week visit a perfect fit to allow your parents to keep integrating smoothly. If they are a bit slower to feel comfortable, you may need 3-4 visits a week to give them a little extra reassurance.
How else are you in touch?
The amount of communication you have with your parents outside of your actual visits to the facility will also play a role in deciding how many visits you should aim for. If you are in daily communication with them via phone, text, or video chats, you may find that your visit frequency can be less because it will feel like you are connected and involved with them in a different way.
Who else is visiting?
It’s also a good idea to find out who else is visiting your parents and how often before deciding on your own schedule. Once you know how many visits are happening and when, you may have your visit schedule already determined for you. And you will be able to help manage all the visits to make sure that your parents have plenty of interaction with loved ones while also maintaining time to be involved in activities through their assisted living community.
Make a plan and start!
It takes conversation, observation, and experimentation to land on the right amount of visits for everyone. Most likely, it will take a little time to figure it out, and there will probably be some bumps along the way. But don’t let that deter you from starting. Get input from everyone who is able to take part in that conversation, set a plan, and start. Evaluate and adjust as you go. When you’ve struck the right balance, your visits can be more meaningful and productive.