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7 Reasons Why Visiting Elderly Parents Is Important After a Move to a Senior Living Community

13 minute readLast updated April 23, 2024
fact checkedon April 23, 2024
Written by Kayla Van Erdewyk, senior living writer
Reviewed by Niki Gewirtz, senior living expertNiki Gewirtz is a senior new hire support specialist with A Place for Mom and has advised families for more than 20 years.
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If you recently helped your parent move to a senior living community and you’ve stepped back into the role of their child, you may wonder how often you should visit them. It’s beneficial to visit your senior parent at least two to four times per month. However, the frequency of visits should be based on your loved one’s needs, your own schedule, and the type of community. These visits can have many benefits, including strengthening your bond and maximizing your loved one’s well-being, happiness, and safety.

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1. Frequent visits encourage loved ones to adapt

It’s important for seniors who have moved into a senior living community to adapt to a new social structure. Instead of living with their spouse or their family, now they’re living among their peers and may also have to rely on new people to care for them. They may feel stressed and need support in the midst of transitioning to senior living.

For instance, your parent might miss their home, feel overwhelmed by their new surroundings, and worry that they won’t get to see you and other loved ones as often. Taking the time to visit regularly shows your loved one that you can still spend time with them even after they’ve moved away, and it may help them feel more relaxed in their community. Plus, research shows that frequent visits may also help seniors ward off psychological and physical health problems.[01]

Because visiting often can improve your parent’s well-being, they may be quicker to adapt to their community. Your parent is likely trying to make new friends, build relationships with the staff, and maintain relationships with existing friends and family during this transition. Make time to help them connect with others and increase their comfort with their new home by spending quality time together, both one-on-one and in group settings.

At the same time, though, visiting too often can backfire.

“It’s important to give seniors space so they can adjust to the new environment and new people,” says Paul Flancbaum, a Senior Living Advisor with A Place for Mom. “This lets them build trust and confidence in those new people to take care of them.”

Get in touch with your parent and their community to find a balance that works for everyone. While you don’t want to visit so often that your elder family member can’t establish themselves in their community, not visiting often enough can have negative effects.

2. Visiting can boost your parent’s mood

A move to a senior living community may create a level of physical distance between you and your parent that you haven’t experienced before, especially if you were living in the same household. Because of the new physical distance, visiting your parent in their community can feel much more exciting and special. These visits can boost their overall mood and keep them engaged in their new environment.

To keep visits exciting, senior living communities have a robust activity and events calendar, as well as what are known as “third places” designed for leisure and entertainment. These spaces, which include courtyards, movie theaters, lounges, and game rooms, give seniors and their families plenty to do during visits.

In addition, research shows that these venues can be an essential component of healthy socialization with family and friends. Third places offer a fresh change of scenery outside of your loved one’s room, which can keep visits from feeling repetitive.[02]

FROM THE EXPERT: COMMUNITY SATISFACTION

Both the senior’s and the family’s satisfaction with a community is an ongoing process. The community and the family have to work together to create a good experience. Families can only be a part of that process if they visit their senior loved one enough.

3. Visits help you notice changes in your parent’s abilities

Visiting while your loved one participates in the community’s routines can allow you the necessary time and space to spot any concerns and changes early. For example, you might notice your parent has a harder time getting dressed or can’t feed themselves as easily as they used to. Ideally, you’ll have time during your visit to bring your observations to your parent and discuss the care they need.

It’s also important to share what you notice with the community staff to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“Interactive communication is very important on both sides, because families have a right to know what’s going on,” adds Flancbaum.

In addition to examining your parent’s physical health, pay attention to your parent’s mood. Do they seem more down than normal or detached? Are they cheerful one moment and angry the next?

Depression and anxiety are common in seniors, especially during the holiday season. Additionally, mood swings, memory loss, and personality changes may be signs of dementia, which should be addressed.

4. Visiting helps you monitor their safety and quality of care

Visiting can help you ensure that your loved one’s care is consistent from one caregiver to another, and that their care plan is being followed. Visiting can also alert you to signs that your parent’s care isn’t working out. However, Flancbaum mentions families shouldn’t feel like they have to be there every day to make sure all is well.

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The hope, of course, is that you and your parent are more than satisfied with the senior living community they call home. During visits, you’ll get to know your parent’s team of caregivers — if they live in assisted living or memory care — and understand all of the services and amenities they may receive.

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a reality for some seniors. Not all abuse is easy to spot — neglect and emotional abuse, for instance, may not be apparent immediately — but it’s important to document any signs of abuse, no matter how subtle, and report them quickly.

5. Visits allow you to improve your relationship

Now that the caregiving duties you may have been responsible for are out of your hands, you can devote your time and energy to your relationship with your loved one. It may take a while for your role to change completely, but ideally you can simply bond with your parent as their child. Seniors who attach a strong importance to family bonds experience an increase in morale with more visits.[03]

Plus, when seniors have consistent visits from their families, they may have a better overall experience with their new living environment.[04]

“Communities might suggest schedules, perhaps twice a week or during specific events, as the best times to come,” Flancbaum explains. “This way, you’re visiting consistently without interfering with meals or care.”

Seniors can also feel empowered through social interactions, such as joining a club. Through participation in clubs and activities, your senior loved one can introduce you to their friends. You’ll get a better idea of how they spend their time and what they enjoy, and you can help increase their self-esteem.

Flancbaum also suggests simply letting your parent know that you’re thinking about them. Even if you move away or experience other life changes, take advantage of phone and video calls to check in with your mom or dad.

6. Visits help elderly parents with memory loss reminisce

Sometimes it’s hard to see the importance of visiting seniors who can’t remember who you are. Although it can be a struggle to interact with someone who has dementia, visiting during the right moments still provides benefits.

“The community gets to know your parent well,” Flancbaum says. “For instance, if a senior experiences sundowning, the staff who work with them every day should be able to tell you when that happens and when might be the best time to visit.”

By visiting during the right times and making a connection with your loved one, even if communication has become difficult, their mood and enjoyment can improve.[05] For instance, you can bring your loved one items or photos with personal significance to help them recall cherished memories.

You can also engage your parent in an activity that you both enjoy. A study looked at the positive effects of reminiscence therapy in men with dementia who like football. Researchers observed groups in nursing and care home settings, where caregivers, family, and interested residents would discuss football and other general life interests. The residents showed positive outcomes and looked forward to these visits, which ultimately improved their moods.[06]

7. A lack of visits can negatively affect seniors

Seniors who don’t have visitors may struggle with loneliness, especially if they feel there’s a lack of companionship or they haven’t yet made friends in their community. They may also start to feel more isolated from their families. Senior isolation is a serious concern and may lead to a decline in mental health.

“Seniors can start to feel that their family doesn’t care about them anymore,” Flancbaum cautions. “When a senior feels this way, we need to get the family back into the picture, because their absence affects the life of the senior.”

In Flancbaum’s experience, some seniors may go to extremes such as not eating when their families don’t visit — that’s how much it can affect their health.

Other ways to stay connected

Distance, busy schedules, and health concerns can make visiting difficult. For those times when an in-person visit isn’t possible, consider staying in touch with distanced and virtual options. This will reinforce how important your loved one is to you and let them know you’re thinking of them.

Depending on your loved one’s preferences, they may appreciate a mix of options including:

  • Handwritten letters
  • Drawings from grandchildren
  • Emails or text messages
  • Video chatting via apps such as FaceTime or Zoom
  • Phone calls

Ask communities about their visitor policies

Each senior living community has their own protocols and rules for keeping residents safe and healthy. Try to balance the importance of visiting your senior loved one with any health concerns. If you’re unwell, consider rescheduling your visit. Some communities may ask you to take precautions while you’re there, such as wearing a mask or taking a COVID-19 test before your visit.

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

Ongoing support for families and seniors

From checking in on care to sharing in your parent’s daily life, there are many benefits to visiting your parent in their senior living community. Perhaps most importantly, you’re reinforcing and strengthening the bond you already have with your loved one.

But sometimes new challenges spring up, and you may feel unprepared. If you and your elderly parent ever need assistance, reach out to A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors. They can support your family at any stage in a community stay. Based on your family’s needs and circumstances, one of our experts can guide you through ways to connect with your senior relative after they’ve moved.

SHARE THE ARTICLE

  1. Cornwell, E. & Waite, L. (2009, March). Social disconnectedness, perceived isolation, and health among older adultsJournal of Health and Social Behavior.

  2. Greene, V. L. & Monahan, D. J. (1982). The impact of visitation on patient well-being in nursing homes. The Gerontologist.

  3. Corven, C., Bielderman, A., Lucassen, P., Verbeek, H., Lesman-Leegte, I., Depla, M., Stoop, A., Graff, M., & Gerritsen, D. (2022). Family caregivers’ perspectives on their interaction and relationship with people living with dementia in a nursing home: A qualitative studyBMC Geriatrics.

  4. Tolson, D. & Schofield, I. (2012). Football reminiscence for men with dementia: Lessons from a realistic evaluation. Nursing Inquiry.

Meet the Author
Kayla Van Erdewyk, senior living writer

Kayla Van Erdewyk is a content specialist at A Place for Mom, where she focuses on senior-friendly technology, the move to assisted living, and many other topics that help families choose the right type of care. Kayla holds a master's degree in special education from the University of Northern Colorado, plus a psychology degree from Creighton University.

Edited by

Merritt Whitley, senior living writer and editor

Reviewed by

Niki Gewirtz, senior living expert

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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