For starters, the best thing your family can do for your children before going to see a loved one in a hospital or senior living community is to prepare them for the visit.
Offer an explanation. Help children understand why you are stopping to see a loved one such as, “We’re visiting grandma because she is sick,” or, “Grandpa lives in the nursing home and can’t visit us, so we are going to visit him.”
Discuss what they may experience. Offer examples of what they may see, hear and smell including wheelchairs, oxygen tubes, machine noises and unfamiliar scents. Be sure to remind them that your loved one may be confused or unable to remember things.
Be honest and use age appropriate words. Many children need reassurance that you can’t catch cancer like you catch a cold and may not understand why your loved one isn’t in the same condition from what they remember.
Use these tips to help children interact comfortably with their loved one in an unfamiliar setting:
- Show and tell – Bring schoolwork, art projects, video clips of sporting events or a school play that they may want to share.
- Coloring – Bring supplies to color with your loved one or to keep children occupied for long visits.
- Games – Play board or card games.
- Music – Listen to songs together, have an impromptu sing along or listen as they reminisce over memories. Soft music is calming and comforting for children and adults alike.
- Family tree or history – Include your loved one and child as you do research and review the results.
- Short outings – Visit a local shop, restaurant or even an outdoor area near the senior living community.
- Reading – Most children benefit from extra time reading out loud. Have them read a favorite book to your loved one.
Learn more, contact Tabitha Hospice at 402.486.8506 or a Bereavement Coordinator today.