Ombudsman Observations: Visiting loved ones in long-term care facilities during the holidays

With the holiday season fast approaching, it is 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 situation can cause a deep sadness. Not having anyone to visit them can sometimes turn temporary sadness into serious 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 the following activities: taking along some wrapping paper and having them wrap gifts, adding their name to the gift tags; bringing an extra box of holiday cards and filling them out together; or making a wreath together for the resident’s door.

Since there is a limited amount of space for personal belongings in long-term care facilities, look for gift items that are useful as well as appreciated such as: clothing with large buttons, non-skid slippers, lap blankets, stationery or note cards, framed artwork from a relative or grandchild, 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. Also, consider giving the gift of your time and presence to your loved ones. This type of giving can include taking a walk, watching a movie or TV show together, reading a book, or talking about family and current events.

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 he or she 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.

While the number of COVID cases has recently been on the decline, many facilities still have some limited restrictions on visitation. These may include having to schedule visits and or meet in a designated visiting area. It’s also important to remain vigilant in following COVID precautions such as wearing a mask, maintaining proper hand hygiene and social distancing. It is imperative to communicate with the facility staff to determine their specific COVID policies.

For information about the long-term care Ombudsman program or becoming an Ombudsman volunteer, contact Scott Harding at (918) 913-9582 or Tim Nicholsosn at (918) 913-9587. Scott and Tim are the long-term care supervisors at EODD Area Agency on Aging in Muskogee. The main office number is (918) 682-7891. Have a great holiday season.

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