February 11 is National Shut-In Visitation Day, a perfect time to bring awareness to the importance of regular visits from loved ones to those who are home or facility bound. You may think that by visiting you’re simply lifting their spirits, and yours by association. While that’s true, the effects of such a visit go far beyond the mood-boosting results. Did you know visits to your loved ones in hospice can actually make a difference to their health?

The emotional and physical elements of regular visits are both inter-connected very deeply. We already know that emotions have a powerful effect on a patient’s health. But it’s what happens in the brain that’s truly amazing. Positive emotions can boost a person’s resistance to further illness, with brain activity showing an interesting response from a group of brain cells referred to as mirror neurons. Studies show that after a visit from a loving and cheerful friend or relative, mirror neurons stir similar positive feelings in the brain of the patient, lifting their spirits and making them feel better, according to the Daily Mail.

As we approach National Shut-In Visitation Day, it’s important to take a look at what shut-ins are and why they need regular visits from those who love them. A shut-in is someone who cannot leave their home or a nursing home due to physical, mental or emotional reasons. Patients in hospice are often confined to a bed most of the day, sadly cut off from the rest of the world unless they receive visitors. This can lead to isolation, loneliness, and sadness due to lack of companionship. Everyone gets busy and it can be difficult to carve out time for not just a physical visit but a meaningful connection. But even just a few minutes, a half hour, an hour can make all the difference to someone in hospice.

Benefits of Visiting Loved Ones in Hospice

Often, as we go about our busy day, we take for granted our freedom. We run to the grocery store, pick up the kids or grandkids from school, hit the gym, grab dinner with friends, and so on. But visiting a loved one on a regular basis — doesn’t even have to be daily, maybe weekly is all you can do — leads to a variety of benefits for emotional and physical health on the part of the patient. By visiting your loved one, you can:

  • Show them you care and haven’t forgotten about them. Your visit serves as a reminder that you are still invested in their well-being.
  • Show your affection and give your loved one the sense of touch. Sometimes, all the physical contact a hospice patient has in a day is with a nurse or clinical caregiver. While such professionals are trained to be gentle and compassionate, it still can’t rival the affectionate embrace of someone who loves you. Don’t be afraid to touch the dying, says the Huffington Post. Nothing communicates our love more than holding hands or stroking their hair.
  • Check up on their physical and mental health. Take this time to evaluate how they’re doing, what they look like, how well they’re being cared for. Make sure they’re taking all their medications and maintaining a healthy diet. If they receive assistance with this, open up a dialogue with the nurse about daily care routines. Listen to any problems your loved one may be experiencing and take those concerns to the hospice care team.
  • Reminisce about the old days. Creating new positive memories relies a lot on reminiscing about old ones that bring joy. Not only will you improve their mood and encourage them to engage with you, you’ll also help their brain to remain sharp. Haul out the photo albums and old videos, or play their favorite music. All of these things can bring a flood of happy memories.
  • Keep your loved ones socially connected. It’s all too easy to fall into isolation when bound by hospice or even home health care. Keeping your loved one socially active keeps them physically active and mentally alert. Give them a sense of belonging, of purpose.
  • Break up the daily monotony. Hospice or home health care can be bone-numbingly boring and monotonous when all you have for company is a revolving door of nurses and the TV to keep you company. One daily visit can break up that monotony and give them something to look forward to.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

While Pathways Home Health and Hospice has a dedicated team of caring home health care and hospice care professionals in San Francisco who can help guide you through this difficult time, it’s still important to maintain regular contact with your loved one. We can provide you with tips on how to engage with them if you are having a hard time. Contact us today at 888-755-7855 to learn more.