You’re back in your hometown for the holidays and you go to visit your Great Aunt Hilda at her nursing home. You give her a box of chocolates, ask how she’s doing, show her pictures of your kids, tell her a story about your new puppy…uh, discuss the weather…look at your watch. Seven minutes. Really, seven minutes into the visit and you’re out of things to talk about?
You could ask what’s new with Hilda, but you know her life is pretty static. Maybe the podiatrist was around last week and everyone got their toenails trimmed. But there’s only so much ground you want to cover on that topic. So what do you talk about? How can you pass the time pleasantly?
Here’s one idea:
Conversation starter cards. There are a variety of sets. This one happens to be what I own. Since I suffer from a generalized case of social awkwardness, I use them in different settings. I don’t always take the box along, often simply looking through it for ideas before I’m in a conversation-making situation. My kids and I have read through the cards on road trips. They can be fun to use with a group, especially a multi-generational one. I’ve taken the box with me when visiting my mom and it made for some good discussions. There are questions such as “Are there any unusual food combinations you like?” and “What’s the longest trip you’ve ever taken?”
This could lead to interesting reminiscences. I’ve heard some tantalizing tales about my mom’s life that were new to me. You might want to be ready to take notes, or even record the conversation for posterity.
Another idea is to take a deck of cards or simple board game with you. By the time someone’s in a skilled nursing facility, they’re probably not going to be with it enough to play duplicate bridge, but Crazy 8s might not be out of the question. Or checkers.
If you have a tablet and you know there’s an Internet connection, you can bookmark some short on-line videos and share them. Who doesn’t love to watch cute baby animals doing adorable things?
You could have an informal literary discussion. Bring a poem or short short story to read aloud and talk about it.
These are all ideas that have gone well for me. If anyone else has suggestions, I’d love to see them in the comments.