Regardless of where your parent is at age or ailment wise, your child will cherish the memories they create with their grandparent. That grandparent may no longer be the vibrant adult you grew up with, but it is the grandparent your child is growing up with. Let them experience that person, with whom there will be a very different type of relationship than the one you shared with your parent. It’s not about creating a masterpiece or an academy award-winning documentary, but instead, creating memories.
At every age, children (and adults!) want to feel needed and included. What better way to include them than to let them know they are needed by another family member?
When we bring our children along the intention for meaningful visits is there, but the reality can often be a bore. Here are some simple activities to make visits at the assisted living with your children in tow enjoyable and enriching.
3, 2, 1 Action!
Interview and record stories and create a living time capsule. Prepare questions and bring along memorabilia or photos to spark the stories.
At home, brainstorm with your child about things they want to know about their grandparent. Put the questions on pieces of paper that go into a jar. Bring the jar along on visits. Even if the grandparent has dementia, recalling the good old days is often easier than recalling what they had for breakfast.
Well, not literally. Is your teen into a sport? Visiting grandpa to watch the big game on television is a way to connect in a less pressure filled way than if they had to sit face to face and come up with conversation. Don’t forget the snacks!
Is there a loved one who lives far away? Arrange a video chat for when you will be visiting. Put your child in charge of the technology.
Bring an exotic fruit or vegetable for your child to introduce and discover with their grandparent.
Bring in items with different scents like soap, candles, essential oils, and foods and with eyes closed have everyone name the smell. It’s trickier to do than you think.
Have your teen pamper grandma with a manicure or grandpa with a shoulder massage. These activities are warm and loving ways to connect and extend the healing power of touch.
Have a calm family pet? Bring them along for the visit. Having a pet to stroke is proven to calm individuals who have a variety of issues.
Strike Up the Band
Especially fun for younger children, bring handheld instruments like shakers and tambourines to play. Sing and play along to old favorite tunes that you have stored on your smartphone.
Whee For Wii
Many care facilities have a Wii game system. Ask if you can access it and play Wii Bowling, Wii Sports or Just Dance. Or, if a television is in the room (and space is available) your home system could be brought in for the day.
This is a fun game to get a grandparent moving in the comfort and safety of their chair. Have everyone take turns challenging one another to reach for the sky, flap their arms like a bird, swim in the sea, run in place. You get the gist.
Take A Hike
Well, how about just a stroll around the inside or outside of the home. You could also drive to a nearby park and cruise around the lake or down a smoothly paved path. Even sitting with your parent on a bench while you enjoy watching your children play on the swings can be a win for the whole crowd.
The Times They Are A-Changing
Decorate a grandparent’s assisted living apartment with holiday decorations. Your children can pre-create items for grandma and proudly present them and tape them up all over the place.
Picasso, Is That You?
Bring supplies and a drop cloth and create just-for-fun mini arts and crafts together.
Offer the choice between two activities and let the grandparent choose which activity they would like to do to give them a sense of empowerment.
Go with the flow – if the grandparent wants to stop mid-activity, let them.
Let go of expectations. Everyone has a bad day, and you can’t predict what you’ll walk into at your visit.
Have fun! Joy is not age dependent. And, it’s in the giving that we end up receiving. Experiencing this at an early age will carry across a lifetime.
Of note for teens:
Your teenager can expand their experience to others within the assisted living community and could lead activities or games with the permission of the activity director. Many schools or civic organizations your teen may be involved in may count this as volunteer time toward required public service hours. And while you ideally want your teen to do things out of the goodness of their hearts, sometimes you need to lobby to the goodness of their college resumes.