The Light You Bring To A Loved One's Golden Years: 10 Ways To Keep Their Spirits High In Assisted Living

While nursing home care may be a necessity for many, making the transition from independence to assisted living isn't easy. In fact, rates of depression can reach as high as 49 percent. Here are 10 important ways you can keep the spirits of your loved one up after they've made the move to a TLC-intense environment in a convalescent home.

1. Understand The Condition(s) Your Loved One Is Dealing With

Getting older with an increasing number of health problems can leave someone vulnerable to depression. When you consider the pain of arthritic conditions and the frustration of Alzheimer's, you can understand why. The more knowledgeable you are about what your loved one is going through, the more appropriately you can respond to their needs.

2. Try To Make It Look More Like Home

Even if your relative is in a hospital-like setting, there's no reason you can't tastefully decorate the room, giving them thoughts of home, grandchildren and other happy things. Bright colors can elevate the mood, handmade art shows them love and photos prompt memories. Remember to change up the decor once in a while, too, the same way you might with your own home.

3. Visit Often And Bring Others Along

While you may lead a busy life, it's vital that you stop in regularly. This can aid in cognitive and emotional ways and perhaps give you the opportunity to slow down for a few minutes. When you can, bring someone with you, even if it's not someone your loved one knows. They will feel included in your life and the new face can be an interesting turn of events for their day, giving them something new to talk about.

4. Send Snail Mail And Care Packages

A quick note, even if you're venting about how busy your life is, the current political landscape or your washing machine leaking again, can really give a boost to your loved one's spirits. Better still, send items for their unwrapping, such as an old memento from a big family wedding, with a note asking if they remember how awful the bride's maids dresses were or how wonderful the band was. Small tokens of personal history are cherished more as time goes by.

5. Provide Homemade Meals And Other Goodies

You don't have to be a master chef, just thoughtful. Whip up a batch of your best cookies or simply tote leftovers from your own family meals over to the nursing home. Even if you only have time to drop the goodies off at the front desk, the recipient feels special and remembered. If they're diabetic, try something with less sugar that happens to be better for everyone else anyway.

6. Supply Them With Their Favorite Activities

Games, cards, crafts, magazines, cosmetics and other small, but enjoyable items can make the difference between an afternoon spent snoozing or wide awake and engaged. Whatever your loved one enjoys doing, make sure they have access to it, most especially if other people can be involved.

7. Include Other Residents In Your Visits

If your loved one talks about other residents favorably, be sure to get an introduction. This will create a more inclusive and considerate social atmosphere, even after you leave. Bring extra goodies you bake for the friend(s) or just ask if you can pick them up anything next time you visit. It's a normalcy and thoughtfulness everyone will appreciate.

8. Take Your Loved One Outside Or Off Premises When Possible

Depending on the mobility of your relative, ask staff to assist you getting your loved one in and out of your vehicle, then you can go anywhere! Stop at a drive thru for a fantastic cup of coffee and enjoy a scenic ride or trip down memory lane. If ambulation isn't a challenge, definitely partake of the great outdoors, for the benefit of exercise, fresh air and change of scenery.

9. Furnish The Room With Great Entertainment

Music is great therapy and so are old (and new) movies. Make sure your loved one's room has accessible, easy to operate entertainment. If noise is an issue, just pick up headphones. Music and movies change the whole mood of a room from silent and solitary to lively and vibrant.

10. Meet Regularly With Nursing And Direct Care Staff

Those working closely with your loved one know what's going on more than anyone and can offer you great insight. While they are busy with many residents, they care about each one. The more initiative you take, the better. Call or email staff about upcoming visits so they can mention them to your relative, giving them something to look forward to. Ask to be kept in the loop with changes in the personal care routine, medicine, foods and anything else of your loved one. Also, ask staff how they feel you can best elevate the spirits and energy when you visit, then take their advice to heart.

Although it requires time and dedication on your part, creating a better environment for someone you care about in a nursing home makes life more meaningful to everyone, including you. Don't forget to ask for help if you need it and never underestimate the value of your contributions to your loved one: It means the world to them.