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Supporting in a nursing home - Carers UK Forum

Supporting in a nursing home

Share your ideas about the practical side of caring.
Hi! Having been through a whirlwind few months with care for my Dad and finding a suitable nursing home for my Mum, things have calmed down a little!
My current concern is how to help stimulate and entertain my Mum when I visit her in the nursing home.
She has early stage vascular dementia with a sudden onset but can't use her left arm at all and has very limited movement in her hand. She is also wheelchair bound as she can no longer walk. I visit her several times a week and we always have a good chat, it's a random chain of thought for my Mum with some confusion and sometimes she gets irritated and upset if she thinks she's not getting the correct response. I do my best!
I've been trying to make our visits a bit more productive but am at a loss to know what to do! Yesterday I brought a couple of simple magazines and I read some of the articles to her but I was surprised that she could still read a little and wasn't too bad at getting some of the answers to the crossword clues. She can no longer write but really tries.
Every time I have thought of taking her out into the nursing home garden or out for a few hours locally, she refuses but gets frustrated about being stuck inside all the time.
Has anyone any ideas of anything I could get her to do with me, bearing in mind that she can only use her right side. Luckily she is right handed.
Mum enjoys having her hair done so I arrange that every week for her and she also likes having a manicure so that's set up as well.
It upsets me because before she had her strokes she was a very active, bright woman but since February of this year she has declined. I just wonder if lack of stimulation is contributing to her frustration or is it all part of having a dementia?
I would be grateful for any help or advice anyone can offer to me.
Thanks you.
Hello Catherine

I don’t know if you’re like us, but we had a large box of old photos that were mainly unlabeled so we didn’t know (or couldn’t always guess who they were of and when they were taken). I found that Mum enjoyed going through them as they ‘awakened’ old memories for her – especially the ones taken when she was a young woman. It gave me the chance to write what details she could remember on the back and then put them in albums.

It’s a shame that she’s unwilling to venture outside; my Mum used to enjoy me taking her to her favourite coffee shop in our High Street for ‘coffee ‘n cake’ once a week ! Although she was convinced that I had baked the cake (if you knew me you’d know how laughable that was !).

If your Mum can manage crossword puzzles, what about a game of scrabble ? If not that could you perhaps enlarge a crossword puzzle for her ? She might find it easier to write the answers if the boxes were larger ?
When my mum was in a nursing home, she moaned constantly about being stuck in one room - but it was a beautiful home, the best in the area, like a hotel with nursing care. The food was great, the dining room looked over a lovely garden, there was even a gardening club. Although gardening was mum's main hobby at home, she resisted every attempt to get her to join in. I think she didn't want anyone to see her like she was, forgetting that no one else there did either!! The home had minibus trips out to garden centres, even a trip out to see the ship that was stuck in the Solent for weeks, but no, she'd rather stay isolated in her room. I finally accepted that, for whatever reason, this was how she wanted it to be. She loved hearing about what I was doing, what my sons and grandson were doing. The one thing that gave mum real pleasure was the bunch of flowers I took in. The nurses said they always knew when I'd been because of the flowers. Some of their residents had no visitors at all. From my experiences, I'd say let mum do what she wants, allow her to have a moan about how difficult it is, because that's the reality of her situation. What she really wants is to be young and fit and well, and you can't provide that for her. Does she like having family photos in her room? If so, maybe you could do a photograph album for her (scanned copies, so it doesn't matter if they get lost of damaged) of you when you were younger, the house she grew up in, etc.? It sounds like she needs a lot of help, so if she is not being state funded, it might be worth investigating NHS Continuing Healthcare. It's a bit of a postcode lottery, but if eligible, all her costs would be funded by the NHS. It is not means tested.
Thank you subsequent and Bowlingbun.
Good ideas!
I just feel so helpless in trying to help my Mum but I will try to think of something for every time I go to make the visits a good time for her.
Does anyone else visit your Mum or just you? My auntie set up a diary for my Granny. at first she wrote in it herself, but when her writing became indecipherable, her visitors used to write a message. She enjoyed reading previous entries to new visitors.

My Granny enjoyed talking about old photos too and I found it interesting. I also used to take in mini projects such as planting an amaryllis, it could be watered, measured and talked about on subsequent visits. She had a stock of cards for birthdays etc and looking through the diary to see who to send them to was another activity. She had a bird feeder outside her window, we used to fill up and she liked to keep goodies for guests and enjoyed being helped to stock take and order more, to be delivered next visit.

Plants are a brilliant idea. Mum had lots of amaryllis in her house, which moved to mine when her's was sold. Whenever I could see a bud forming, I'd take it in to mum, then she'd enjoy watching it grow, and then flower. I think the staff enjoyed watching it too. However, make sure either fresh cut flowers or plants are monitored, and given a drink regularly. Mum was bed bound, so many of her flowers died prematurely because staff didn't keep the water topped up. Nursing homes are always hot, and so the water evaporates quickly. They're not very good at getting rid of dead flowers either. If you need a vase, take one in that doesn't matter if it gets lost - and put a big label on it with your mum's name on it!!
Hi Catherine,

I struggled with this too. The most successful thing I tried was old photos and also memory books of the area mum grew up in, that normally prompted a discussion, at least in the early stages.

A bit of a random one but do you have an IPad? Mum enjoyed some of the YouTube clips, mainly animals or babies. Three minutes was about her concentration span. Also simple jigsaws.

We also tried planting bulbs but that got a bit messy as mum only had sight in one eye so she would miss the bowl :roll:

Hope you find something she likes, Anne
Oh thank you very much!
So many more lovely ideas here!
I took in my 1st wedding photos today as they are 41 years old and she enjoyed looking at relatives in the photos. Her father, my Grandad was in them so she was fascinated by that!
I do bring her flowers for her room and I love the idea of a bird feeder and planting a bulb. She can only use one hand now but I'm sure she'd manage with some help. I also like the idea of her having a stack of cards as I can remind her and help her to write them. This will keep her connected to the outside world and I know my daughters, her granddaughters would be so touched to have a card from her.
I have an ipad and will definitely use that with Mum.
My daughter suggested bringing in a load of buttons and asking Mum to sort them out. So my list is getting longer which is good.
This forum is great as so many kind people share their experiences. I hope to be in a position at some point to support others in return!

:) :) :)

Happy visiting!

Hello Catherine

My grandmother had vascular dementia, and I worked in dementia care for fifteen years. Did you watch the fabulous documentory recently on channel four about a wonderful dementia care home? Your mother is confused and frustrated, which is normal and the best way to deal with it is to be calm, make eye contact, smile and offer reassurance. Be positive with her about the things she can do and praise her without being condecending. Just keep going and being there for her, finding things she enjoys. Why not just take her wheelchair to the front dooor each time you go and maybe she will venture out so long as she is happy with that. You are clearly a wonderful daughter and she a wonderful mum.
Best wishes

Ruth :)