Double-click to start typing

Family Reports

Click here to edit subtitle

Visitation Tips

I recently attended a meeting at my church to learn how generally to visit residents in hospitals, resident's home and nursing homes. The information was very helpful in learning that my purpose is not only to limit my visits to the nursing home, but to also talk to other residents while I am visiting, especially those that come up to me or wish to start a conversation. Granted, some of the information below is for the visitation ministry of our church.

Visitation Tips

Know the name of the person or people that you are visiting

Know special health considerations: hard of hearing, diabetes, or fasting. This may be due to a medical test that will be taken and or a disease that could be hampered by giving food items for example, cookies.

Always sign-in at the sign-in book

Leave a calling card

You can visit in the room or in an open space

Visit with the neighbor resident, usually there are two residents in one room, sometimes the other resident will not see anyone for a time, because the family is outside the local town or in another parts of the state.

Wash hands

  • Remember bring nothing in and don't take anything out

Find a staff person

  • So they know you are visiting on of their residents or a hospital patient

Always introduce yourself

  • Residents see nurses and helpers in and out during the day

Log or Journal your visits 

  • Many times its you that finds that the resident is talking differently or not remembering as you noted in the past which could be the onset of dementia or other problems

If the door to the room or hospital room is closed, the patient or resident is receiving personal care.  The visitor should remain outside, or if your visiting other residents or patients, see them and come back.

Deal with the resident's spiritual and emotional health, not physical health

  • Residents have nurses and doctors asking if they feel pain, they don't need the same questions from us
  • "How's your day today?" or "How's the sunshine coming through your window?"

Switch the conversation to them

Inform them of what's going on in the community

Discuss military experiences, if desired

Be aware of where your feet are

  • You are visiting a resident, you should not be worrying what's for dinner, when is your next appointment, or how soon you have to be home


  • Somes not saying anything is saying enough.

Repeated stories

  • When you visited last week, the resident talks about the same story. Sometimes their story is that important and worth telling again.

Ask questions

  • Use questions to allow the resident to further explain their story

What makes your visit different?

  • How are your visit's unique from someone else that is visiting the same resident.

Pray with them

Share a scripture verse

  • Resident's will remember a scripture verse like the Lord's Prayer
  • Tell them this is a scripture that is special to you, or this is my favorite scripture.
Make a connection
  • Favorite toy
  • Favorite game
  • Favorite pet

Touch the arm only between elbow and their wrist

General guidelines for the amount of time spent during the visit

  • 15 to 20 minutes in a nursing home
  • 5 minutes in a hospital

Ask the person if it's okay to hug

Ask, "Can I visit again?"

Confirm a date, because sometimes we get busy, but definitely should visit sometime during the day


  • It's important to have a basic understanding of oxygen tanks, breather units, etc. Most times you've just walked in after a resident was moved back from the cafeteria and the oxygen tank pressure was set, but not turned on.  Remember to get a nurse to make any changes, you should only observe.
  •  I experienced this in a consecutive two-day period at Mom's nursing home.  The tank was empty on both occassions.

If a resident is in Isolation - and your visiting without a request, you have a "choice" not to enter into the room

What is NPO?  

  • Nothing by mouth (Latin)


  • Sometimes medical papers are near a resident's bed, there are Federal and States Laws regarding medical privacy of information

Visit the person, not the illness or the disease

Don't use the cellular phone, remember your time is with the resident or patient

Visiting a patient or resident with Dementia disease

Use the word F-O-C-U-S

Focused - you face at or as close to eye-level

Orient - Never say "That's wrong."  It may irritate them

Continue - Continual conversation / pickup on one another

Unstick - assist with saying a word / sometimes the dementia mind 'stops'

Structure - Structure questions / try board games, puzzles

Use exchange  - comment on shirt, smile or eyes, the room they are staying in or hair

Be Direct - short sentences, don't rephrase, repeat.  When you say, Hi, my name is Kendra from Trinity Church, then say again, I'm from Trinity Church, my name is Kendra, you just had your dementia patient try to process the first comment, shutdown and start over again to try to understand the second question/comment.  You have to repeat the same phrase, Hi, this is Kevin your son. And when she looks like she is still not understanding what you said, repeat, Hi, this is Kevin your son.

Avoid loud noises

Avoid startling a patient experiencing dementia

  • Don't grab the person from behind in a wheelchair, go around the wheelchair, crouch down or sit in a chair next to them, and look into their eyes when you speak to a patient experiencing dementia. 

How to talk to people that are dying

Hearing is always the very last thing to go

Be present

Never say "don't worry about it."

When they say, "I'm afraid.", ask them a question, "Tell me, about your fears."

Five statements for the dying

I forgive you.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I Love you.

Goodbye, It's okay to go.  Sometimes, we feel the need for permission from someone.

What to do if the resident or hospital patient dies during the visit or just before your visit

This information is specifically for church ministry, and may not be for you, but something to consider.

If the resident dies during your visit, and the family is not present, notify a nurse, and stay with the person until the family arrives, many times death is too strong an emotion for family members to enter the room. Stay with the resident (outside the room if desired) until the funeral home arrives.  I know that this is unsettling, and as I write this, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with it, but it's truth.  If it were you, would you want to die alone with no one in the room or just outside the room?

If the resident has already died and there is family in the room or hospital room, pray outside the room and wait until someone comes outside the room, some will ask you to pray for them in the room.  This is a private family moment that should be respected. A reverent moment for the family to share with the deceased.  Act only if asked, do not ask them.