Your visit may be the only contact the home-bound have with the outside world today. To make your visits more meaningful and enjoyable, you will want to become familiar and comfortable with some basic visitation and etiquette guidelines.

Some rules apply to specific environments while other rules of etiquette are universal. We will look at the basic guidelines for every environment first, and then on to special situations in hospital and facility settings. 

Before Arriving:
• Never visit if you are sick or not feeling well. Even your runny nose may cause a serious illness if transmitted to the elderly.
• Take hand sanitizer with you and use before and after visit.
• Wear a large print name badge.
• Make sure your breath is fresh with gum or mints.
• Do not wear strong perfume or cologne as many people are sensitive to these!
• Pray Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, Oh God, my rock and my Redeemer” before arriving and then ask God to soften their hearts to bring comfort and encouragement.
• It’s always nice to bring something with you to give them, like a bulletin from church, a CD of the sermon (if they have a CD player), a Christian magazine or devotional , a single flower, pad/pencil set, appropriate and permissible food item, etc.
• Consider taking a well-behaved child who can interact with the elderly person.
• Pet therapy. After receiving their permission from a previous visit, consider taking a small pet that is good with people, likes to be petted, has a good disposition and is not aggressive.
• Remember to EMPATHIZE – putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and treating them how you’d like to be treated.
Respect their right to confidentiality. Don’t be a gossip!
• If you have established a routine, be regular and on time for your visit.

Approaching Residents:
• Smile, be joyful and upbeat, but not fake.
• Always knock and identify yourself.
• Approach residents as though they had no disabilities.
• Always position yourself at eye level and wear a cheerful smile. It’s contagious!
• Never treat the elderly as a child OR call them names like “honey,” “sweetie…” Ask them what they want to be called and call them by that name.
• Be friendly and caring. “Hi ________. My name is __________ from (name of church/organization).  I’m here visiting this morning. Would you like a visit?
• Ask permission to turn down the volume on a radio/television or to turn it off if necessary. Turn it on again when you leave.

Communication Skills:
Some elderly may be unable to speak due to a stroke, but can fully comprehend what you are saying. Pay attention even when they appear to be completely “out of it.” You may be surprised to learn that they understand what you are saying. Communicate the love of Christ through listening, appropriate touch, and a kind look!
• Be on their eye level.
• Let them look at your face so they can read your lips as well as hear your voice.
Speak slowly and pronunciate your words clearly.
• Listening carefully shows you value them. Allow time for them to comprehend and respond to your question, or rephrase your question for understanding.
• MAINTAIN eye contact, communicating, listening, touching, and talking.
• Appropriate and public touch is an effective and personal way to communicate. It may be a hand on theirs while talking or praying, a gentle shoulder massage, or even rubbing lotion into their arms, lower legs and feet;  that touch brings warmth and comfort.

Build their Self-Worth by talking about their:
• Service and sacrifice to various family members and life-long friends.
• Positive choices and life patterns or how they have overcome bad choices.
• Contributions to the community and how they made it a better place.
• Past accomplishments.
• Twinkle in their wrinkle and how their eyes light up when they smile!
• Heritage they have established and will leave for the generations to come.
• Sense of gratitude to God.
• Purpose for today and how He is using them to teach others things through them.
• Significance that their life has had.

Things to Talk About – not you, but let them talk!
• Find a sincere compliment about the person’s look, hair, nails, room…
• The person’s past hobbies & interests; pictures in the room
• The person’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren
• Topics in the “Legacy Journal”
• History that they remember living through
• Current events
• A subject of mutual interest

Spiritual Discussions:
• Ask the person about God’s faithfulness in his or her life.
• Ask the person about Heaven. Allow him or her to talk about dying. Conversation with a purpose leads into the Gospel and assurance.
• Remind the other person that God loves him or her. Quote John 3:16.
• Ask if they have any prayer requests.
• Ask if you can pray WITH them or FOR them.


These guidelines are in addition to the ones we talked about above. Hospitals, assisted living, nursing homes, and home plus facilities each have their own set of rules for visitors. Always be aware of informational signs as you enter these facilities. When in doubt, ask!

• Be aware of the Residents’ Bill of Rights. These are the legal rights of residents protected by state and federal law. These rights are usually hanging up on a wall in the main foyer. One of these rights includes the right to receive visitors and allow visitor access at reasonable hours.Talk with the activities director of the care facility and let them know of your intentions to visit on a regular basis.

• Care facilities require you to sign-in before each visit, and sign-out when leaving. Do this.
• Be considerate and even helpful to the staff while visiting. Who knows what doors this will open!
• Look for any restrictions posted on the resident’s door. If there is a symbol, ask the staff what it means
• Do not attempt to transfer a resident from chair or bed to wheelchair, or vice versa. Staff will assist residents
•Do not serve food or drink to residents unless you ask the staff first. Many residents are on restrictions that can change from visit to visit.
• Ask/inform the staff if you are taking the resident for a stroll on the premises.
• Do not escort the resident off the property, unless you are there for transportation purposes that have been cleared with the staff ahead of time.
• Occasionally bring the staff a special treat, letting them know of your appreciation for all they do to take care of the elderly and your friend.

Now Take the Quiz:

Quiz for Guidelines & Etiquette for Visiting in Hospitals, Homes, & Facilities.

Quiz for Guidelines & Etiquette for Visiting in Hospitals, Homes, & Facilities.

Captivating our community with the character of Christ through compassionate CARE