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Make the Most of Your Visit

Whether visiting a loved one, neighbor or new friend who may not have family nearby, spending time with those in a nursing home or assisted living facility can be meaningful and enjoyable. But these visits are not without their challenges. How do you make sure both you and the resident make the most of limited time? Which topics will keep conversation engaging? What activities will be most entertaining? Not sure where to start?

We have some quick and easy ideas to get the conversation going and even a list of items for do-it-yourself “visitor kits” to take along. Surprise residents with a board game, a deck of cards or a craft project to pass the time playfully. Bring a photo album or journal to help new friends organize and document “memories.” Or you can even put together a care package to leave some warmth behind.

Feel free to mix and match depending on your time and budget. No matter what you bring, you’re sure to light up someone’s day.


Nobody Will be “Board”

From tapes of tunes to Trivial Pursuit, bringing a fun activity along is a surefire way to break the ice—especially if it’s your first time visiting. Think about the crafts, games or music you know and love; residents will be bound to share in your enthusiasm.

For some brainstorming help, use this list of ideas. Make it a “kit” by bringing a few different options—then let participants choose. Have more tips for fun activities? Share them on our Facebook page!

Board Games

  • Backgammon
  • Bingo
  • Chess/Checkers
  • Chutes and Ladders (our favorite classic)
  • Clue
  • Connect Four
  • Dominoes
  • Guess Who?
  • Jenga
  • Life
  • Mancala
  • Monopoly
  • Parcheesi
  • Risk (great for groups!)
  • Scrabble (but be prepared to get dominated)
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Yahtzee

Card games

  • Bridge Canasta (bring two decks of cards for this one)
  • Crazy Eights
  • Cribbage
  • Go Fish
  • Hearts
  • Old Maid
  • Pinochle
  • Rummy

Looking for something a little more right-brained?

Craft projects

Learn something new! The door swings both ways: What new games or activities can residents teach you? Here are some ways to prompt your friend to share stories and skills:

Skill-savvy: What hands-on expertise can you learn from your friend? Are they pros in knitting, woodworking, or writing? If they sew, for example, say you’d like to learn how, and ask if they could teach the basics for repairing a button.

Life Experiences: So much can be learned from experience. Encourage them to pass along lessons learned from their profession, hobby, or life in general.

Collaborative cuisine: Does your friend have a signature dish they used to love to cook? Ask them to explain how to whip up a favorite recipe—or get into the kitchen and have them show you!


Make Friendships that Last

Everyone has a story—and older individuals likely have many good ones to share. Another meaningful way to spend time with residents is to help them reminisce and write down their memories. Create a first journal entry and encourage them to continue writing in it every day. Or bring a photo album to help them organize loose pictures. As you create the album, document the who, when, where, and other fun photo details in captions so the memories are logged.

Are you already familiar with the resident’s life story? Help jog memories with “remember when’s” for their wall. Bring up specific events and get them to elaborate. Then write down the details in colorful markers to post around their room. Or record the conversation so they can keep a version to play back and enjoy later.

If you’re tech-savvy, bring a voice recorder, video camera, smartphone or laptop to turn oral histories into hard copy that they can revisit time and again.

Here’s a run-down of what you can bring along to help organize old memories and create new ones. If you have more ideas, share them with us!

  • Camera
  • Double-sided tape (to hold album photos in place)
  • Journal
  • Laptop
  • Notepad
  • Pens, Markers, Colored Pencils
  • Photo albums
  • Scrapbooking décor
  • Scissors
  • Tape recorder
  • Video recorder (Plenty of cameras have this functionality now.)

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Back to Basics

  • Put together a care package that includes some daily basics, along with a few goodies! These “visitor kits” provide a little something extra to leave behind.
  • Batteries (AA and AAA)
  • Books (with large-size print, if possible)
  • CD’s of favorite music
  • Chapstick
  • Comfy blankets or quilts that remind them of home
  • Denture cleaner
  • Eyeglass cleaner
  • Favorite perfume/cologne
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand and body lotion
  • Homemade cookies or brownies or healthy snacks, such as trail mix (but first, check on dietary restrictions)
  • Magazines
  • Nail polish
  • Slippers or slipper socks (with the tread on the bottom to prevent falls)
  • Travel-size shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes and floss
  • Wet wipes

Once you’ve perfected your own care package, remember to share your item list with us so everyone can benefit from your brilliance!


Need More Ideas?

You've come to the right place. There's no lack of ideas for ways to help. Here’s a few we came up with for 2013… well, 52 to be exact.


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