Tips for Holiday Visits to Nursing Homes

During the holiday season, long-term care facilities receive a high volume of visits from families, friends, local organizations, and faith-based groups. These visits are extremely important to persons in nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities.

When I visit long-term care facilities as an ombudsman representative, many families bring young children to visit during the holiday seasons.  They always bring amazing joy to older adults. Whether they are singing, hugging, or high-fiving, the interaction and entertainment of children can brighten mood and keep them motivated.

Melanie McNeil, Esq., Georgia State Ombudsman said, “The holidays are a time for reminiscing and creating new happy memories. Visits are important at this holiday season, and throughout the year. Visiting helps each resident to stay connected with his or her community and helps to improve residents’ lives.”


What are the rules about visitors?

Generally, family members have the right to visit any time. Long-term care ombudsmen, the resident’s physician, the resident’s attorney, and clergy members may also visit the resident any time. Other visitors, including friends, neighbors, and others may visit during the facility’s visiting hours.


  • Call ahead to arrange your visit at a time that is best for the resident.
  • A resident’s room is his or her home. Knock and ask permission to enter.
  • Introduce yourself to the resident to remind him or her who you are. Residents may not see or hear as well as they once did, so may not recognize your face or voice.
  • Be attentive to the resident’s appearance and demeanor. Does he or she appear clean, appropriately dressed, and well cared for? Ask about the quality of food and activities.
  • Many facilities plan special holiday events or activities. Consider planning a visit at those times to share the event with residents.
  • A resident may have had to leave his or her companion animals when he or she moved to the facility. Ask the facility about its policy for pet visits.
  • Residents with dementia may not be able to talk to you but still appreciate the sound of another person’s voice.
  • If asked for help with water, food, or assistance moving around the room, ask a staff member to assist, since you may not know if the resident has special needs or restrictions.


Although the holidays can be an especially lonely time for residents who do not receive regular visitors, feelings of isolation and depression are not just seasonal. Nursing homes are always looking for volunteers to bring cheer and company to residents: not only during the holidays, but year-round.

Each home has its own rules about volunteering and the best way to find out about opportunities is to contact the activities director at the facility. They can provide guidance and match your skills with residents who would welcome a visit.

The reward found in helping others is certainly a benefit. Many volunteers report that their own lives are enriched as much as the lives of the persons visited.

Lin Chao

Ms. Chao’s current position is Ombudsman Services Coordinator, and she previously worked at the University of Texas in Houston as Aging Programs Specialist and Long-Term Care Ombudsman Representative. She enjoys travel and reading.