Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Help Nursing Home Residents Enjoy the Holidays

When the hustle and bustle of the holidays is fast approaching, it is important to remember our loved ones who are in area nursing homes. This can be a depressing time for them. They are separated from the normal routine and for many of them, this may be their first time away from home during the holidays. Family members should realize the importance of reaching out to their family and friends living in nursing homes.

Try to include your residents in the holiday festivities in some way. Investing in your loved one can be key to a happier holiday for both you and your loved one. Here are some ideas:

Visit Often
Visits from family and friends are always welcomed around the holidays. It can help their day go a little faster and make it a little more special because of the visit from you.
Many treasure visits with children and grandchildren as well. Children, adequately chaperoned, can be a real source of enjoyment and happiness for an older adult. 

Taking a loved one home, if possible, while you are preparing for the holiday festivities, will make them feel they are still a part of the celebration. They can smell the cookies in the oven, watch the "hustle and bustle" in kitchen, see the lights on the Christmas tree or participate in the lighting of the Menorah. Another plus is that once you have them home, their enthusiasm is contagious!
And don’t rule out visits from pets as well. Many nursing home residents love to have visits from pets. Quite a few nursing homes have volunteers certified to do friendly pet visits. If this is the case, request a furry visitor the next time they come into the facility.

Spirituality and the Holidays
Getting your loved one in touch with their spirituality during the holidays can be especially helpful as
well. The holidays are a time when many older adults reminisce of days gone by. While this is usually a pleasant experience, it can be a little sad because of the many losses we experience by the time we are older adults. A resident’s spirituality can be a comfort and a source of strength for them during the holiday season. Getting your loved one in touch with a counselor or person from the clergy can be helpful in addressing the loneliness and spiritual concerns that they may have in their lives. Most nursing homes are good at having an area priest or pastor available to visit with residents. Speaking with the nursing home social worker or administrator and setting up a visit for your loved one can be a source of personal strength and encouragement for them during the holidays.

The Importance of Involvement
Try to get your loved one involved in a project that allows them to reach out to someone else. Most residents love to be productive and involved in other people’s lives. You never lose the urge to make a difference to someone less fortunate than yourself. There are all types of projects that older adults can get involved in.
  • Making holiday cards is one activity that does not require a lot of energy and can be done at a resident’s leisure, when they are feeling up to it. They can either make cards for their friends and family or they can make cards for other people in the community who could use a friendly reminder that they are being thought of.
  • Create a "Holiday Diary" with the assistance of a family member or friend. Have the resident document a holiday remembrance so that it can be saved as a keepsake. For this project, the loved one recalls a special holiday memory, a story, a gift received and/ or given or special holiday song that meant so much to him or her. The resident can have a diary entry for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the Eight Days of Hanukkah. This is a great way to find out about holiday traditions and special times that happened long ago. Keeping a written journal of these special moments can be a treasure in years to come.
Bonnie Camp, a certified volunteer advocate with the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly and a hospice volunteer, received her MSW and Gerontology Certificate in 2011 from Rutgers University School of Social Work. She graduated from Stockton State College with a Bachelor’s degree in social work and minors in gerontology and writing. She is currently employed as a nephrology social worker with South Jersey Healthcare at dialysis units in Bridgeton and Millville.


  1. You touch on some good points in your post here. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. As a Registered Nurse who worked in Nursing homes for 20 years, I loved this post. It makes such a difference when the residents can connect in the ways you delineated. I have also started writing a blog on preventing nursing home negligence. Would love if you could share my blog with those family members who may need this information.
    Thank you.

  3. These are the things that most family members neglect to do. Once they bring in their seniors to receive long term nursing care , they rely heavily on the caregivers there and forget their responsibility of still showing care and support to their loved ones. These are simple but meaningful things that we can do to uplift the spirits of our loved ones

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  5. A nursing home with good facilities, nursing care, needed assistance, social activities and dedicated staff is a happy place but another important factor which seniors look forward to is arrival of family members to visit them.

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  8. Great post. I did want to mention, however, that there are wonderful alternatives to nursing homes. Companies like Home Instead Senior Care help seniors stay in their own homes, in a comfortable environment, with their in-home assisted living services. If anyone is interested in learning more I would recommend visiting the Home Instead website!

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