With the holidays approaching, many people get even busier than usual, adding the hustle and bustle of the season to all their normal day-to-day activities. Nevertheless, most still find time to celebrate holiday traditions important to them and their loved ones.
When people recovering from an illness or injury find themselves in a nursing home this time of year, they might worry about missing cherished traditions with friends and family. How can you help?
Take action. You can prevent your loved one from feeling isolated or excluded. Here are some tips to get you started on making the season brighter and more memorable for everyone.
1. Continue holiday traditions
Figure out his or her favorite traditions and which ones you can bring to the skilled nursing home. Ahead of time, offer to help the resident decorate their room or shop for gifts online if they plan on giving this year.
Bring holiday music that the resident loves. This can brighten the spirits of almost any resident, and can boost the mood and memory of residents living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Although a lot of attention is naturally given to Christmas, there are also tips for celebrating Hanukah or the Hispanic Christmas Eve tradition Nochebuena with a nursing home resident. Interestingly, honoring the elderly by visiting them in nursing homes is part of many Kwanzaa celebrations.
2. Incorporate friends and family
This applies to both local (in person) and far and wide (via Skype or FaceTime). Most people will have New Year’s Day off from work, which can provide a great opportunity for a family get-together (not too early for those who celebrated the night before, however).
3. Ask the resident
Ask your loved one what would make this time of year special for them. They might request a small decoration from home instead of the party you had planned. Also, nursing home residents rely on routines and schedules, so skip any surprises — involving them ahead of time is a better idea. Also, for any resident with cognitive issues, avoid flashing lights, holiday costumes, or anything else that could be possibly disorienting for them.
4. Checks the rules and regulations
Candles are never allowed for obvious safety reasons. Electric holiday lights can be an option for a Menorah or on a Christmas decoration, but check with administration first on what you can bring. Long-time nursing home staff often have great suggestions on what works and doesn’t work for celebrating the holidays in a particular skilled nursing facility.
5. Spend extra time with them
Friends and families sometimes focus more on gifts to buy or decorations to bring rather just visiting longer or more often. Nursing home residents will remember the time you spent with them long after the presents are opened and the decorations are put away. Family involvement in nursing home life is important, say researchers who studied 100 residents at four different nursing homes in Europe. Family visits are important to residents, but they also help family members. Getting family involved in the life and culture of the nursing home can be a positive experience for those who feel a void without their loved one at home, for example.
Skilled nursing facilities plan activities and celebrations around the holidays as well. For example, all seven facilities that comprise the Plaza Health Network celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza with musical celebrations, lighting of menorah and traditional holiday foods, as well as religious services. Families are welcome and encouraged to celebrate along with residents. In addition, the Plaza Health Network staff makes sure that each resident receives a present so no one feels left out, which is especially important for people who have no family nearby.
Some Nursing home residents can also feel a little forlorn after all the holiday celebrations and activities come to an end, but January is also a perfect time to visit your loved one and talk about the coming year. What are their New Year’s resolutions? What do they hope to accomplish? Get them to name a few things they’re looking forward to in 2017 and help keep their post-holiday spirits high.