Wisdom from our elders
Granddaughter doesn’t know what to say when she visits
Dear GrandPad: My Grandma has lived in an assisted living facility for almost two years. I used to visit her before COVID, but it was always hard to know what to say. My mom says that I can visit again soon and I’m kind of panicking. I’m a college woman and Grandma will enjoy hearing about that, but what else do we say or do? Their activities are starting up again but how long can you talk about bingo? How does someone like me pass the time with an elderly but much-loved grandparent? – KH
Dear KH: What a lovely granddaughter you are to ask. We’re happy to offer some suggestions.
When you see your grandma, give her a hug (if permitted). If she has dementia, first say, “Hey Grandma, it’s Kristin your granddaughter!” If not, greet her as always. Then ask about how she’s doing and let her answer in her own time. She may or may not go into detail, but it’s nice to ask so she knows that you care about her life.
- After that you can tell her about college. Depending on her memory, this could be a nice two-way chat that takes up the rest of the visit or it could last about two minutes because she can’t remember what you just said.
- If conversation lags, ask her to tell you about something fun that she enjoyed when she was a girl. Or about her parents, her siblings, or how she and Grandpa met. If she has dementia, take care not to say, “Do you remember?” Instead say something like, “Tell me about your brother.” That way she will tell you what she remembers but won’t become frustrated by what she doesn’t. You might even find yourself fascinated with her stories once she gets started. This can happen when we concentrate on what others say rather than our next comment.
- You could bring old photos from home or else view them on a phone or tablet. Of course, we recommend a GrandPad for this because with this tablet she can view them effortlessly. If she recognizes people in the pictures you can say, “Tell me more about them.” If not, just enjoy looking at the pictures together and move on.
- Consider asking your parents to get her a GrandPad – maybe for Mother’s Day. With a GrandPad she can access music with the push of a button and play games alone or with others. Communication is safe and simple because your parents would set up her personal call list. She just pushes the button below their picture and her call goes through. No spam calls to worry about and safe Internet is included.
You’ll be fine, KH. Your heart is in the right place. We think your grandma is fortunate to have you.