Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tips and Gift Ideas for Long-Term Care Residents

It is the time of year to start thinking about what to buy for the person on your list who lives in a nursing home, assisted living, or residential care facility. Most items appropriate for retirement community residents are inexpensive gifts, and they’re easy to select if you know a little about the recipient’s hobbies and preferences.

Consider some of these practical and appropriate gifts for a nursing home resident:
  1. Warm bathrobe
  2. Soft nightgown or pajama set
  3. Cozy enclosed slippers or firm shoes with rubber soles
  4. Clothing items that are easy to wear, such as jogging suits and cardigan sweaters with large buttons
  5. Hand lotion and facial tissues
  6. Comb or brush
  7. Large print edition books, magazines, or puzzles
  8. A deck of playing cards or board game
  9. A soft pillow and pillowcase
  10. A quilt, blanket or comforter for the bed
  11. A CD player and some CDs
  12. Photographs or photo collages
  13. Stationery, note cards, greeting cards, pens, and stamps
  14. Calendar for 2013 with dates marked on it for upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, etc. For birthdays, mark down how old the person will be on that day; for anniversaries, the number of years together
  15. Address book with addresses written in for family and friends
Be aware that there are many gifts that are not appropriate for nursing home residents, like huge televisions and fancy clothes. Also, due to possible swallowing difficulties and restrictive diets, sending food items such as candy, cookies and fruit is not advised. If a nursing home resident has Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, do not send liquid items such as perfume, cologne, after shave or lotion, as these may end up being swallowed.  Gifts like scented candles are dangerous, since many residents require oxygen as part of their care regimen.

Here are few tips to remember when choosing a holiday gift:

  • Remember that residents in nursing homes have limited space for personal belongings
  • Check with the administration about their policy on items families and friends can bring to residents
  • Permanently label any gift with resident’s name
  • If you’re giving clothing, make sure it’s wash-and-wear, unless you’ll be responsible for the dry cleaning
  • Understand that off-site laundry is the rule in many nursing homes. Clothing can easily be lost during this process.
  • Know that, even if someone is in a “private” room, it’s still accessible to staff and other residents
  • Keep safety in mind at all times: glass or ceramic items are breakable and can cause injury
  • Find out about the administration’s policies on pointed or sharp objects such as scissors, pins or needles – including plastic flatware and knitting needles
  • Give the resident money directly, unless it’s pocket change for phone calls.  Deposit money in the resident’s  “patient personal account”
  • Bring food or candy if the resident is on a special diet, UNLESS you check with the nursing staff and have their OK
  • Bring visiting pets the nursing home administration hasn’t cleared .  That can be traumatic for both the animal and the resident
The holidays can be a very lonely time for nursing home residents. Remember that your time is best gift you can give.  Nothing can take the place of visiting your friend or family member in the nursing home. This is a very enriching and appropriate gift for nursing home residents. Spending half an hour, or even just a few moments, can be a great experience for all. Offer to read a holiday story, talk to your loved ones about their favorite holidays, or ask them to tell you about a gift they received and treasured as a child.  Find out their favorite holiday song and sing it to them, or find a recording of it and play it for them.  Senior citizens are valuable members of society and spending time in their company is beneficial to all, so bring the kids.  Younger grandchildren will have a better understanding of the stages of life when they experience visits to the nursing home, and  their youthful presence will delight many.


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  3. I like that you mentioned, "your time is the best gift you can give". Although, it is nice on special occasions to give gifts of some sort, time is really the best gift. My grandparents are getting really old, they don't really want much as far as material items go. What they do enjoy is when we come to visit. These are great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great post. I did want to mention, however, that a very good alternative to long-term care in a facility is in-home assisted living. After all, all seniors want to remain safe and independent in their own homes. If you're interested, I would recommend taking a look at Home Instead in Franklin NH as a safe alternative for assisted living if you're in the area. They also have offices and caregivers located nationwide!