For staff, the holidays can be a busy time full of family gatherings and holiday celebrations, but for our residents, the holidays can be an especially lonely time. Our residents must adjust to so many different circumstances as they age — issues such as physical disability, loss of independence, social isolation, and learning to living in a communal setting. These items alone can be enough to trigger depression but couple this with loss during the holidays and it can be overwhelming.
Imagine if you were unable to participate in your own holiday traditions because you were chronically ill and needed assistance. That is exactly what Mrs. Brown experienced while spending the holidays in the skilled nursing facility. Mrs. Brown had a fall just after Thanksgiving. Her goal was to return home long before Christmas, but she suffered a right hip fracture that required surgical repair and therapy wasn’t progressing as she had hoped.
In years past, Mrs. Brown had participated in elaborate holiday parties where she would dress in her favorite black cocktail dress and toast the holidays with friends. This year was a much different situation. Her favorite gown had been replaced with sweatpants and slippers with non-skid grippers. Instead of sipping Manhattans, she was sipping on nutritional supplements to help her improve healing. She was going to miss her family celebration, tree decorating, and her granddaughter’s holiday concert. Her mind was floating with all the events she would not be taking part in this year, how much of a burden she had become in the past month, and how she is now stuck in the nursing home, missing all the fun.
Mrs. Brown’s story isn’t the only story about feeling sad and lonely. Many of our residents have these feelings. Consider Mr. Jones, who hated the holidays because he had outlived his entire family. To him, the holidays were a big reminder of the family gatherings that will never occur again. Or Mrs. Linder who, following a stroke, is no longer physically able to go home and attend holiday gatherings because she requires physical assistance that her family can no longer provide. As you look around your facility, I am sure you will find even more stories such as these. So I urge you to consider changing things up this holiday season to help residents beat the holiday blues.
Here are some things you can do to help create an environment where residents feel special during the holidays.
Inquire about past resident traditions and incorporate them in the celebrations
Decorate their room with holiday décor
Invite children from the community to visit and share presentations with residents
Have a staff and resident celebration event
- Allow staff to bring in their family to share in the event
Offer a holiday baking class where residents participate in baking holiday favorites
Offer a virtual viewing of a local holiday parade or tree lighting ceremony
- This allows residents who are typically unable to get out of the facility, the ability to participate in community events
Consider hosting a holiday musical event
Reach out to residents and ask them how they would like to celebrate this holiday season. Involve them in planning and organizing holiday events. Many of our residents once participated in hosting large gatherings and are a great resource for cheering things up during the holidays and into the New Year. Help them see that they are still a part of the community and that even though things might not be the same; they are invited to make this joyful season just as special as they have in the past.