Explaining the Concept of a Nursing Home to Kids
If you or a loved one is moving into a nursing home, young children in your life may have many questions. Start by explaining to your child what a nursing home is in simple terms.
You can describe it as a community where people who need extra help live and are cared for. Highlight the positives, such as skilled care, social activities, and safety.
Here are 5 ways you can explain the concept of a nursing home to your child:
- Help with everyday living. Nursing homes help people with daily tasks like taking a bath, getting dressed, taking medicines, and other activities that might be hard for them to do on their own.
- Taking part in fun activities. Living at home can be boring for some older people, but in a nursing home, they can join in on fun games and activities that keep their minds and bodies healthy and active.
- Making new friends. In a nursing home, there are lots of opportunities to make friends with other people their age. They can talk, play games, and do activities together, which helps them feel less lonely.
- Cleaning and housework are taken care of. In a nursing home, people don’t have to worry about cleaning or washing clothes. It’s like staying in a hotel where all these things are taken care of for them.
- Having healthy food already made. Cooking can be hard for some older people. But in a nursing home, they get tasty and nutritious meals and snacks prepared for them every day. This ensures they are eating healthy food.
Sharing the Reasons for Their Loved One’s Move
Explain the reason for the move into a nursing home in an age-appropriate way. Perhaps your loved one has been finding it harder to do things like cooking or bathing, or maybe they need medical help that the family can’t provide at home.
Assure your child that by moving to a nursing home, their loved one receives the best possible care.
Addressing Your Child’s Emotions
Children might feel a range of emotions, from sadness and confusion to relief. Confirm their feelings by letting them know it’s okay to feel upset. This will help encourage open conversations. It’s very important that your child knows that their feelings matter and are taken seriously.
Create a safe space for your child to ask questions. They might wonder if they can still visit their loved one, how often, or if the loved one will eventually return home. Answering these questions honestly can alleviate your child’s anxieties.
Preparing Your Child for Changes in Their Loved One’s Health
Inform your child about the possible changes they might see in their loved one, especially if they’re moving due to a condition like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
10 Tips for Talking With Your Child About Dementia
Here are 10 tips to help guide a conversation with your child if their loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Be honest with your children about the condition. Use age-appropriate language to explain the effects of dementia on their loved one’s memory, mood, and behavior.
- Communicate clearly and calmly. Give your child specific examples of how the illness may affect their loved one’s behavior.
- Allow your child to openly share their feelings with you. Make sure your child knows they can talk with you about the changes they’re seeing in their loved one.
- Discuss what may stay the same and what may change. Explain which of their loved one’s characteristics or routines may remain the same, as well as those that are likely to change.
- Build trust by being truthful from the start. Ensure your child understands their loved one’s disease. Give them age-appropriate medical information about dementia from reputable sources, such as the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Encourage questions and ongoing conversations. Let your child know they can always ask you questions about their loved one’s illness.
- Allow your child to spend time with their loved one. But prepare them for what to expect during each visit so they are not alarmed or cause your loved one to become upset.
- Talk candidly with your child after each visit. If your loved one exhibited unusual behavior, explain to your child that it’s due to the disease, not anything they did.
- Involve your child in looking after their loved one. Have your child help you provide care in age-appropriate ways, helping to bridge the continuation of their relationship.
- Do not expect them to take on major responsibilities. Unless your child is nearing adulthood and expresses a willingness to help, do not make their loved one feel like a burden to them.
Above all, make sure to reassure your child that despite any behavior changes, their loved one still needs their love and support.
Get more information from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) article: Helping Children Understand Alzheimer’s Disease.
Remember to Plan Regular Visits
If possible, plan regular visits to the nursing home, making the new situation a normal part of your child’s routine. Help your child think of activities they can do during their visits, like reading a favorite book, playing a game, or sharing stories.
Here are some tips on making visits to the nursing home enjoyable for your child and their loved one.
5 Tips for Taking Children to Visit Nursing Home Facilities
- Have pre-visit conversations. Children often find changes in living circumstances confusing. Be open and honest, using child-friendly language to remind them why their loved one now lives in a nursing home.
- Plan ahead for their first visit. Before the first visit, let your child talk with their loved one over the phone or on a video call. This helps establish familiarity and comfort. Keep the initial visit brief, as younger children may become tired or overwhelmed.
- Give your child a project to create for their loved one. Encourage your child to make a card, drawing, or craft to bring to the nursing home. This gets them actively involved and provides a positive focal point for the visit.
- Schedule some activities you can do together at the nursing home. Coordinate with the facility’s activities director to participate in scheduled events. Choose an activity enjoyable for both your child and their loved one, such as arts and crafts or bingo. Feel free to bring your own entertainment if no suitable activity is available.
- Encourage your child to prepare a show-and-tell. Ask them to bring some favorite items for a show-and-tell session. This can be particularly beneficial when visiting residents with memory issues. For instance, your child could bring photos or a trophy they recently won, which can act as conversation starters.
End Each Conversation on a Positive Note
Remind your child that while this change is difficult, a nursing home move has been made with their loved one’s best interest at heart. Reinforce that this isn’t a goodbye but a new way of spending time together.
Facing these conversations with honesty, patience, and understanding can help ease the transition for both your children and their loved one.
Remember, it’s not just about having one conversation but rather a continuing dialogue as they adjust to the new reality. Regularly reassure your child of your love and support throughout this process.
If your child is having difficulty adjusting, don’t hesitate to seek help from a counselor or psychologist specializing in child grief and family changes. Talk with your child’s pediatrician to get a referral.
Additionally, resources such as Boston Medical Center’s Good Grief Program specialize in helping children through grief.
While your family adjusts to the new living arrangement, don’t forget to keep a close watch on your loved one as they transition into their new home. The sad reality is that nursing home abuse and neglect are common, and the best defense is to monitor your loved one carefully.
Navigating the world of nursing homes can be challenging. At Nursing Home Abuse Justice, we’re committed to helping families understand their loved one’s rights and the quality of care they deserve.
Download our comprehensive Nursing Home Abuse Handbook now for more information about nursing home care, legal rights, and how to take action if you suspect abuse or neglect.