How often should I visit my loved one’s nursing home? ? | Chicago Elder Law Attorney Anthony B. Ferraro

This is a great question. The staff at the facility might ask you to stay away for the first few days in order to minimize confusion and let your loved one get acclimated to new surroundings and routines. If this seems harsh, know that it is being done only in your loved one’s best interest.

Now, with regard to YOUR adjustment — this is a big part of things, too, you know — keep up talks with your support system. This includes friends, other caregivers, a counselor, other caregivers, etc. You also can keep in close contact with staff members at your loved one’s new home. Maintaining a good working relationship and developing rapport with staff and those who will be closest to your loved one day in, day out can only help. Get to know them. This also will keep you indirectly in touch with your loved one.

A good facility will know how to handle the transition period and the adjustments you and your loved one will be making. If you ever become uncomfortable with the situation, do go to the facility. The key is staying involved in your loved one’s care, but at a level that won’t cause you more stress.

Once this initial adjustment period is over, it is not recommended that you visit every day. But if you do, try to keep your visits not too long. Spend “quality time” rather than just “quantity time” there. Develop a visiting schedule that works for you and does not add to your stress, which will down grade your health.

In most care facilities, you are allowed to eat with your loved one if you come at meal times. Just give advance notice to the kitchen. Also, some providers offer separate rooms so families can get together and meet away from others. This is especially true for birthdays or other special occasions. Just ask.

Each resident has an individualized care plan, developed by multiple staff members representing different departments. You and your loved one are always invited to attend these meetings. This is a great opportunity to be involved with a loved one’s care. At these meetings, you will discuss diagnosis, goals, interventions, strengths, weaknesses and more. Some people are surprised to find out they can make care suggestions and express concerns at these meetings, which are held in a “neutral” environment. Depending on the level of care, these meetings take place every 30 to 90 days.

You also might want to be involved with family council meetings, which many facilities hold. These are usually held on a monthly basis. Family members and staff come together to discuss upcoming events, facility changes and other issues.

You also can be effectively involved even if you can’t physically attend the facility. Just ask other families’ members and caregivers about opportunities. If you want to spend more time at the facility, that is a choice you may make. Some family members are fond of “hanging out” at the nursing facility and make friends with other residents, families and caregivers.