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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

State Official Offers Tips for Holiday Visits to Nursing Homes

PRESS RELEASE                                      
For Immediate Release                                

Contact:  Reza Mizbani

Public Information Officer

State Official Offers Tips for Holiday Visits to Nursing Homes

New York State Long Term Care Ombudsman Mark Miller today released a list of helpful tips for people planning holiday visits to residents in nursing homes.  As people travel home for the holidays, many nursing home residents will be eagerly awaiting a visit from family members and friends.   Miller notes that it is important to visitors, as well as the residents, to have these holiday visits be successful.  Miller oversees the State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program that places volunteer ombudsmen in nursing homes and other long term care residential facilities across the state.
Visitors should plan ahead to make these visits rewarding for the resident and themselves.  The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, a statewide advocacy service administered by the New York State Office for the Aging, advocates for persons living in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, adult homes and other residential care facilities.  The program has a corps of more than 1,000 trained volunteers who regularly visit these homes, promoting and protecting residents’ rights and resolving care-related concerns.  New York’s State Ombudsman, Mark Miller, offers the following tips for families when visiting a loved one or friend in a nursing home:

•    Call ahead to arrange a time to visit that is best for the resident.  If your schedule does not permit you to visit during normal visiting hours, talk with the resident and the facility social worker or administrator to arrange an alternate time to visit.

•    Bring the loved one home for a family meal, take them for a drive or to visit friends in the community as a way to share the holiday time.  However, remember that trips outside the nursing home, whether for a few hours, the day or even overnight need to be prearranged and coordinated with both the resident and the home in order to ensure a safe and pleasant visit. 

•    Ask the resident if he or she has any special needs such as personal items, clothing or other necessities that they would like.

•    Many residents had to leave their companion animals when they came to the nursing home.  Ask the home about pet visits and limitations.

•    Many homes plan special holiday events or activities.  Consider planning a visit at those times to share the event with your relative.

•    If you are visiting a friend or relative for the first time, understand that this may be an emotional visit.  Many first-time or infrequent visitors experience mixed emotions.  These typically include feeling nervous, guilty or angry.  These feelings are normal.  Give yourself time to become acclimated to the new surroundings.  Get to know the staff, your loved one’s roommate and other residents.  While children are always welcome visitors, realize that teenagers and older children may have a more difficult time during these visits and may need additional support and time to adjust.

•    Be attentive to the resident’s appearance and demeanor.  Do they appear clean, appropriately dressed and well cared for?  Ask about how they like the food and what activities they participate in, if any.

•    When visiting a family member or friend with dementia, be aware that those visits can be emotionally difficult and potentially unsatisfying.  These residents may not be responsive which makes family member think that their effort to visit was in vain. 

Michael Burgess, Director of the State Office for the Aging, where the Ombudsman Office is located said, “It is important to remember that when we make these holiday visits, residents not only look forward to them, they also feel better because of them. Visits throughout the year, not only at holiday time go a long way to improve residents’ lives.”

According to the State Ombudsman, complaints received by the program traditionally spike during the holidays when nursing home visits by families and friends tend to increase.  If you are concerned about the care or treatment your loved one is receiving, or if they express complaints about their care remember the best place to solve most problems is right where you are --- in the facility.  Try to clearly identify what the problem is then approach the administrator, Director of Nursing or facility social worker with your concern.  Discuss possible solutions and ask when and how the concern will be addressed.  If the problem remains unresolved the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is there to help.  The name and contact information for the local ombudsman is posted prominently in every nursing home.  You can also find the local ombudsman on the web at or by calling 1-800-342-9871.  This is a free, confidential service.

Miller also noted that persons should consider giving a special gift to seniors that will last throughout the year by joining the Family Council of the nursing home or becoming a volunteer ombudsman.  For more information and to contact your local long-term care ombudsman program visit the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program’s web site at or call the New York State Office for the Aging Senior Citizens Helpline at 1-800-342-9871.

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