For those of us with aging parents, chances are high that they will need help taking care of themselves at some point in the future and that might mean living in a nursing home. While that doesn’t make us want to visit them any less, it does raise a few questions about safety when it comes to taking a baby to a nursing home to see them.
Taking a baby to a nursing home can be risky depending on the circumstances. With proper planning and precaution, however, a trip to see aging relatives shouldn’t be any more dangerous than other public places you might visit with a baby and it can provide priceless memories for the whole family.
Personally, I took my twin girls to see their grandmother in a nursing home when they were babies because I didn’t want to wait until it was too late. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to the potential dangers involved, but with our son, we became much more aware. We looked into the biggest areas of concern to see what we can do to prepare as parents to let our loved ones see the new baby!
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Letting relatives in a nursing home see your baby is priceless
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty safety stuff, I want to start by talking about how important it is to let loved ones see your baby (probably their grandbaby or great-grandbaby!) whenever you get the chance. If they are living in a nursing home right now, then chances are its because they have chronic health problems or other issues that could lead to an earlier-than-expected passing.
Studies have shown that elderly people living in nursing homes can feel quite isolated and lonely. This loneliness has been associated with depression, worsening physical condition, and higher mortality rates.
On the other hand, a stronger social network and enthusiasm for life has been shown to improve physical symptoms and help people stay healthier over time. Frequent visits from family and friends can help stave off loneliness and ensure that our elderly family feels respected and important.
With this in mind, don’t wait until its too late to take your baby to visit a loved one in the nursing home!
Stay safe when you take your baby to the nursing home
Of course, there are risks to consider if you want to visit a nursing home with your baby. By their very nature, nursing homes can be a hotbed for the spread of germs and diseases. Just like how hospitals are responsible for getting a lot of people sick because they mix a bunch of sick people together with healthy people, those living in assisted living facilities are often sick themselves, can stay sick longer and are less capable of taking care of themselves and preventing the spread of germs.
With that being said, there are lots of ways that you can make traveling to a nursing home with your baby safer for both your baby and your loved one.
Let’s explore some of the best ways to prevent anyone from getting sick unnecessarily!
Both the elderly and babies are at increased risk for illness
Just like babies, elderly people tend to have weaker immune systems in general and are therefore susceptible to different illnesses that might not otherwise affect a healthy adult. This means we need to take the proper precautions to ensure that we aren’t exposing our babies OR our loved ones to dangerous illness.
Be sure that everyone in the family planning on visiting the nursing home is currently healthy so that you aren’t bringing anything INTO the facility or that their immune system is compromised since they are already ill.
It’s probably a good idea to wait until your baby is at least a few months old to consider taking them to a nursing home so that their immune system has had time to mature a little and they have had their first round of vaccinations. This first round includes prevention against whooping cough which can occasionally pop up in nursing homes.
Ask the staff about a visit ahead of time
In addition to making sure everyone visiting is healthy, it’s probably a good idea to call ahead to the facility and talk to the staff about the current situation among the patients. While they aren’t allowed to discuss issues with specific residents due to HIPPA laws, they could certainly tell you if they have a bad case of something making the rounds.
While you are on the phone with them, it’s a good time to talk to a nurse about your concerns about taking a baby in to visit a nursing home and see what options you might have to see your relative. Rather than meeting in a common area that could be more prone to germiness, check to see if you can meet with them privately.
Some good options might be:
- Their private room
- Outside in a garden or picnic area
- Offsite completely by taking your loved one out for a walk or lunch nearby
If they are able, getting outside for the visit will be the safest option by far.
Consider the time of year
Even if the staff says everyone is healthy as a horse, it’s still a good idea to plan your visit around potentially risky times of the year such as flu season. For much of the United States, flu season stretches from around October to as late as May, meaning that there are precious few months to visit without having to worry as much about the flu.
If you can’t avoid flu season, be sure that your baby gets the flu shot if they are old enough, about six months or older by current recommendations, just in case. Don’t forget that it takes a couple of weeks for the flu shot to reach it’s maximum protection so be sure to plan that out ahead of time!
Have a plan for visiting your loved one once you get to the nursing home with your baby
Once you’ve figured out the best time to visit and have secured the safest place to meet, it’s time to think about your game plan for avoiding contact with germs once you are inside. Because most of the risky germs will be contact-based, the best strategy is to avoid letting your baby touch anything or anyone besides your family member.
Here are my recommendations:
- Wear your baby – Keeping your baby off the ground and close to you is the single best way to keep them away from germs in a nursing home because it will keep those little hands and mouths from exploring things they shouldn’t!
- Don’t let other residents touch or hold your baby – Everyone loves babies and in our experience, this is doubly true for the elderly! When we brought our babies to a nursing home, people were trying to pinch and hold them left and right. Just like any other public setting with a baby, try to minimize this!
- Bring hand sanitizers – Even if your baby isn’t touching much besides you, you’ll probably be touching handrails, doorknobs, and furniture. Be sure to sanitize your hands frequently to avoid passing germs to your little one.
- Have backup pacifiers, toys, etc. – Under most circumstances, I will just give a toy, cup, or teething ring back to my baby if it falls onto the ground because there is so little risk. In a nursing home, just like a hospital, I wouldn’t give those back until they were cleaned. If you have backups you’ll be able to keep your baby entertained without having to worry about germs.
Of course, if your family member is pretty capable of taking care of themselves and their room is clean and neat, you can loosen up a bit as you see fit.
Risks and factors depending on the age of your baby
When it comes to babies, there is a big difference between a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old in terms of how active they are. In general, it’s going to be easier to keep an infant in a carrier or sling than it will be an older one because they will sleep more and are less mobile to begin with.
Once they are awake and moving, toddlers are going to want to walk everywhere, climb on everything, and immediately put their hands onto everything in sight. If you are trying to avoid germs, this is bad news.
Of course, every child is different and you might have an easier or harder time navigating the nursing home with your baby depending on their temperament and energy levels.
At the end of the day, it’s your decision
While nothing can be truly 100% safe for a baby, I personally feel like the potential dangers of bringing a baby to a nursing home far outweigh the risks, especially if you are aware and take the proper precautions when you plan the trip.
Ultimately, you’ll need to make your own informed decision depending on your unique circumstances. Hopefully, I’ve given you a lot of things to think about!
What has your experience been taking a baby to a nursing home? Were the memories worth the stress? Did you go without giving it a second thought? Let us know in the comments below!