How Often Should You Visit Someone in a Care Home?

 In Blog

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should visit someone in a care home.  The best schedule balances your loved one’s needs, your own circumstances, and the care home’s policies.  Focus on meaningful connection, and be open to adjusting as needed.

Moving a loved one into a care home is a major life change for everyone involved.  One of the immediate questions families face is: “How often should we visit?”  Unfortunately, there’s no single right answer. The best visiting schedule depends on your loved one’s needs, your own circumstances, and the care home itself.  

However, staying connected through regular visits is incredibly important. It reduces the resident’s feelings of isolation and gives family members peace of mind knowing their loved one is well cared for.

This article will help you navigate the factors to consider when deciding how often to visit, with the goal of finding a balance that benefits both your loved one and your family.

Factors to Consider

Resident Needs & Preferences

Perhaps the most important factor is your loved one’s needs and personality. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself:

  • Cognitive Function: If your loved one has dementia, do they fully grasp the concept of family visits? Do visits bring comfort or lead to confusion and agitation? Understanding their cognitive state will help you plan visits in a way that’s beneficial.
  • Personality: Was your loved one always highly social, thriving on company? Or did they prefer quieter activities and smaller groups? If they’ve always been introverted, extremely frequent visits might actually feel overwhelming rather than supportive.
  • Physical Limitations: Does their health condition make it difficult to have long or frequent visits? You may need to adjust your expectations and focus on shorter but more meaningful interactions.

Family’s Situation

While your loved one’s needs are paramount, it’s equally important to acknowledge your own circumstances when deciding on a visit schedule.  Be honest with yourself about these factors:

  • Proximity: How far away do you live from the care home? If it’s a quick drive, more frequent but shorter visits might be easy. However, if every visit involves hours of travel, you may need to adjust your plan to ensure visits aren’t a source of exhaustion.
  • Caregiving Responsibilities: Are you also providing hands-on care for other family members, young children, or have a demanding job? It’s crucial to find a visiting schedule that doesn’t lead to burnout. Spreading visits among several family members, if possible, can help.
  • Your Own Well-being: It’s easy to feel guilty if you can’t visit as often as you’d ideally like. Remind yourself you’re doing your best, and prioritise your own mental and physical health so you can continue to be supportive.

Care Home Specifics

Sometimes the care home itself sets parameters around visiting.  Be sure to inquire about the following:

  • Visiting Hours: Are there set hours, or is there flexibility? Can you visit during mealtimes to share a meal with your loved one, or in the evenings if that fits your schedule better?
  • Activities Schedule: Many care homes offer a range of activities for residents. Finding out when those happen can help you plan visits that allow for participation, enhancing the experience for your loved one.

Finding The Right Balance

Especially during the initial adjustment period after moving your loved one into care, it’s often helpful to start with more frequent visits.  This helps them feel less isolated and allows you to observe how they’re settling in.  

As time goes on, you can adjust the frequency based on their needs and your own situation.  The key is to prioritise quality over quantity.  If you have limited time, a focused 30-minute visit filled with meaningful interaction can be more beneficial than a longer one where both you and your loved one feel rushed or distracted.

Think about ways to make your visits special.  Sharing a meal, going for a short walk outdoors if their mobility allows, looking at old photos and reminiscing, or simply holding their hand and offering quiet companionship can bring moments of joy and connection.  Don’t feel pressured to fill every visit with non-stop activity.  Sometimes, just being present is the most important thing.

It’s completely natural to experience some guilt if you can’t visit as often as you initially planned.  Work, family obligations, or your own health might intervene. Be kind to yourself in these moments. Remember, even small gestures like sending a card, a favourite treat, or arranging a brief video call can brighten your loved one’s day and remind them you’re thinking of them.

Beyond In-Person Visits

If your schedule or distance makes frequent in-person visits a challenge, don’t underestimate the power of staying connected in other ways. Regular phone calls or video chats can bridge the gap between longer visits.  Even if your loved one struggles with long conversations, seeing your face and hearing your voice offers reassurance and combats loneliness.  

Technology isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay!  The “old-fashioned” way of sending cards, letters with photos, or a small, favourite treat still carries immense meaning. Even if your loved one doesn’t fully grasp the reason behind it, these gestures bring moments of sensory pleasure and a feeling of being remembered.

Signs It’s Time to Re-evaluate

It’s important to remember that a care home resident’s needs can change over time, as can your own circumstances. Pay attention to how your loved one responds to visits.  Increased agitation, sadness, or withdrawal after your visits might signal a need to adjust the frequency or timing. This could mean having shorter visits more often or experimenting with visiting at a different time of day.  Openly communicate any concerns with the care home staff, as they may have insights to help.

Equally important is monitoring your own emotional well-being.  If visits consistently become a source of extreme stress, guilt, or significantly disrupt your life, it’s okay to reassess.  Talking to the care home staff honestly about your struggles can be the first step.  They might have ways to make visits easier or alternative ways for you to stay involved without feeling overwhelmed.

Remember, It’s About Connection

Deciding how often to visit a loved one in a care home is an ongoing process.  By staying attuned to their needs, being honest about your own limitations, and working with the care home staff, you’ll find a rhythm that brings comfort to both your loved one and your family.  Remember, the most important thing is not the number on the calendar, but the love and connection you share.

Resources for Support and Guidance

  • Age UK: Offers a wealth of information, advice, and support for older adults and their families navigating care options.
  • The Alzheimer’s Society: Provides specialized resources and support for those living with dementia and their caregivers.
  • Carers UK: Supports unpaid family caregivers with advice, resources, and a listening ear.
  • Independent Age: Charity focused on ensuring older individuals have access to the information and support they need to make informed choices about care and wellbeing.
  • The Relatives & Residents Association: Specifically advocates for the rights of older people in care homes and their families.
    • Advice Line: 020 7359 8136

Remember: Your local council’s website is also a valuable starting point for information on care options and potential financial assistance in your specific area.