With two major holiday seasons fast approaching, it’s time to put some thought into visiting family and friends living in long-term care facilities. Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a lonely time for residents. Memories of happier times and past family gatherings added to their present surroundings can cause a deep funk. Not having anyone to visit them more than likely can turn temporary sadness into a real depression.
Many residents receive gifts for the holidays, but become discouraged with not having the ability to give in return. If you are planning to visit a loved one at a nursing home, consider taking along some wrapping paper and have them wrap gifts. Add their name to the gift tags. Bring an extra box of holiday cards and fill them out together. Make a wreath together for the resident’s door. Give a gift that doesn’t need reciprocation, like spending time together doing an activity — take a walk, watch a movie, read out loud, or talk about family and current events.
Because there is limited amount of space for personal belongings in long-term care facilities, look for items that are useful as well as appreciated: clothing with large buttons, non-skid slippers, lap blankets, stationary or note cards, framed artwork from a relative or grandchildren, large-print puzzle books, calendars with important dates marked, gift cards or gift certificates. Remember to add any new belongings to your loved one’s inventory sheet and mark the item with their name.
Take pleasure in your visits and the joy you can share with others. Although your loved one may not be able to converse the way they once could, it is important to spend time together. Take the time to check with staff concerning upcoming holiday events that the facility may have planned such as parties and holiday meals. Many residents anxiously anticipate the arrival of their loved ones on these special days.
Scott Harding, Tim Nicholson
EODD Area Agency on Aging