The importance of family visits cannot be understated. We see it again and again as family visit their loved one at the Jura Care Village; and while the reaction varies from resident to resident, it is amazing to see them light up with a smile and a glint in their eyes. And while this reaction is dependent on the degree the form of dementia has taken effect, residents who are still able to recognize a loved one find great comfort in seeing their family, even though it may seem as if they never even noticed you were gone.
Sometimes it is obvious to see their excitement at the very notion of a family member coming to visit them. Sometimes it is far more subtle. Sometimes if you look close and long enough, you can see it in their eyes. A deep sense of comfort and peace can be seen, perhaps even felt when looking in their eyes. It’s like they know…
And then there’s always the anticipation of a visit. Sometimes they sing with excitement and come alive with joy. Sometimes you can hear them talking with a sense of pride, even though what they say may not make any sense at times, but there is a pride there. I am important to my family.
It’s an excuse for dress-up, and so the makeup gets put on with great care, the sun hat, the dress, the jewellery, a transformation occurs. Sometimes you can tell they are enjoying it, beautifying themselves.
Receiving a family visitor provides a sense of purpose for the day. That sense of meaning that says; I am doing something and I matter. Being silly and playful. Being alive and joyous in the memories that may or may not spontaneously surface from so long ago. This is what we attempt to capture with every family visit. And though it doesn’t always work that way, it is just that one time that makes every other time so worth it!
And then finally we have the gift of youth. Our residents know when there is youth nearby, perhaps it is a smell in the air only the elderly can pick up on. Either way, sometimes our residents are completely rejuvenated, to some degree, by the presence of a youngster. Perhaps it’s because they see themselves not as elderly at all, but perpetually entertain an image of their own youthfulness which may well be some of the few remaining memories they have.
But it must also be said that a balance is required. For some residents, a family visitation means stress, anxiety and a nightmare of other emotions. This is often due to the triggering of previous memories that were traumatic or situations that were stressful. One must always analyse whether family visitations are beneficial to the resident, and if not, what can be done or how can it be avoided.