What to consider when taking children to a nursing home

You might be worried about taking children to a care home, but most homes are delighted to have young visitors - and so are the people with dementia who live there. Find out how to make your visit enjoyable for everyone

Could this be you?

You know that a visit from your children could bring great joy to a person with dementia. But

- The children might see something that upsets them.
- They might get bored and behave badly.
- They might say something embarrassing or rude.

Your concerns are understandable - visiting a care home for the first time can be daunting for anyone. Here's how to make it easier…

Prepare them

How children respond to the sights and sounds of nursing or care homes depends on their age, how close they are to the person they're visiting and how well you prepare them.

What they need to know

You've probably already had to talk to them about dementia and what it means so now you simply need to explain, in a very matter-of-fact way. Something along the lines of:
“Granny (or whoever it is) has moved house. She’s now living in a home which she shares with other people. Some of the people who share the new home might be sick. But Granny has her own cosy bedroom with her favourite armchair, photos and some furniture from her old house, and lots of kind people take care of her and make sure she isn't lonely.”

Give them ground rules

Since the new home is one she shares, there will be some parts of it they can't go in, such as the kitchen, dining room or other people's bedrooms. You could say it's a bit like visiting someone in a hotel!

What to take

For younger children take favourite toys, dolls or books that they can play with either on their own or, if possible, with your loved one. Let them sit on their knee for a cuddle if they want to (but don't force them) or look at a picture book together. It doesn't matter if neither of them are able to read the story, just talking about the pictures is enough. Simply watching a child playing can bring happiness to someone with dementia so don't get stressed if your children want to play alone.

Tip: Avoid toys that are noisy or complicated and likely to irritate or annoy the person you're visiting.

Tip: Colouring books are a great shared activity and there are an increasing number of dementia-specific colouring books available to buy.

Keep it short and sweet

Young children can get bored very quickly so make sure your first visit doesn't drag on. If possible, have another appointment lined up so you have a reason to leave early, whilst everyone is still enjoying themselves.

Older children and longer visits

Jigsaw puzzles or art activities such as scrap booking are easy to set up and can be very absorbing for older children and people with dementia. Take along a supply of old magazines, birthday cards, bits of ribbon and fabric, felt-tip pens, crayons, child-friendly scissors and glue, and scrapbook with sturdy pages. Making something together can be enjoyable and rewarding. It's also nice for a child to feel they've been 'helping' the person they're visiting. Take a look at our craft supplies for inspiration.

Teenagers

Take advantage of their technological skills by asking them to video, or take photos of the visit, bring a laptop along and find funny videos from YouTube that the person you're visiting might enjoy, or which may trigger happy memories.
Tip: Arrange a Skype call or FaceTime with loved ones who live too far away to visit very often. The person with dementia could find this thrilling.

Good to know

Don't worry if your visit doesn't go exactly as you wanted. Simply being around children is often enough to brighten the day of someone with dementia.