Caregiving for Family Members in Nursing Homes

I’ve read many blogs and websites out there for caregivers whose loved ones live at home, but I haven’t seen as much for those with family members in nursing homes.  While the role of caregiver may shift considerably once someone enters long term care, there is still much caregiving to be done.  What follows are some of the most helpful practices I’ve observed in families in my work as a psychologist in New York nursing homes.  

  • Visit regularly
  • Call regularly
  • Attend Care Plan meetings, where the nursing home team meets to discuss the resident’s care
  • Provide information about pre-nursing home health and behavior
  • Display family photos
  • Send cards, which can be posted in the room
  • Bring flowers, or preferably plants, and keep them watered
  • Plan off-campus outings, if possible
  • Make use of the nursing home patio or outdoor space
  • Learn and use the names of team members, especially aides, nurses, and social workers
  • Keep the closet filled with presentable clothing
  • Attend activities together
  • Work to resolve family conflicts so there is a clear “front man” and communication chain
  • Keep a calendar or log of visits, especially for those with dementia
  • Encourage and facilitate friendships with other residents

12 thoughts on “Caregiving for Family Members in Nursing Homes”

  1. Eleanor,
    Excellent! As a Recreation Director, I would like to emphasize attending activities together and encouraging and facilitating friendships with other residents. Generally speaking, residents who are involved in the life of the facility, participating in programs and interacting with others seem to be happier and have an easier time overall. Family support is particularly important during “the critical period” which you spoke of in a previous blog. Positive experiences early on in a resident’s admission can be extremely helpful in their adjustment to long term care. This may take some effort from the family initially, but is often well worth the hardwork. For those family members who may have missed “the critical period,” please ask a Recreation Leader or the Recreation Director how you can help.

  2. Hi Dale,

    It’s really the families who have given me the list — I’m just the messenger, and happy to pass along what works.


  3. “Make use of the Nursing Home patio or outdoor space.”


    We’ve had a rash of orders for Vitamin D for our residents. Fifteen minutes of sunlight would do all of them some good.

  4. Great list. I’d add to it: Join loved one for a meal once or twice a week. Or better yet, bring in some home cooked food your loved one simply…loves! If possible, take your loved one out for meals- either home to to a restaurant.

    Meals are a social time and too often, the social in nursing homes isn’t very sociable.

  5. K. Tree, if I can make it to the nursing home patio when it’s my turn, I’m planning to spend the whole summer outside, reading, knitting, and feeling the breeze in what’s left of my hair.

    Patti, home-cooked meals are an excellent addition to the list. I thought of another one myself:

    Registering the telephone with the National Do Not Call Registry (1-888-382-1222) to prevent annoying phone solicitations. It only takes a minute — I do it all the time for my residents.


  6. Awesome information… thank you so much for sharing/passing it on – many residents of nursing homes so do need the attention!

  7. Thank you for calling attention to the fact that caregiving doesn’t end when your loved one moves into a nursing home. This is something on which I often need to educate family caregivers.

  8. I care for my parents at home, but my sister in law is kept hopping caring for my mother in law in her nursing home. I think her involvement makes all the difference. Thanks for the great checklist.

  9. Thanks for your comments, Missy and Mary. I like to think of the family members as very important members of the treatment team.



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