If a person who helped shape your holiday memories is in a nursing home this December, be sure you make them part of what you will remember about this season’s special days, even if you have to take the holidays to them.
Fortunately, most December holiday rituals – be they born of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Mawlid an-Nabi, New Years’, or Saturnalia – are a movable celebration. So start thinking about how you can bring your holiday cheer to the nursing home.
Decorating for the Holidays in a Nursing Home
Along with a carefully chosen gift, the trappings of the holidays are a great start for bringing good cheer to the often institutional setting of a nursing home. Perhaps you can:
- Put a small Christmas tree or Menorah atop a dresser or nightstand.
- Display holiday cards from loved ones and friends on a dresser or windowsill, taped to a wall, or pinned to a bulletin board.
- Liven up the room with a seasonal bedspread and/or pillowcases and curtains.
- Shop around for a few items of clothing with holiday themes, from robes and slippers to pajamas and sweaters.
- Bring and display seasonal ornaments and mementos from home that have a special meaning to your loved one.
- Serve up holiday-themed snacks and treats.
Planning for Fun at the Nursing Home
If you are trying to figure out how to celebrate the holidays with elderly loved ones, begin by planning holiday-oriented activities suitable to their physical and mental capacities. If leaving the nursing home isn’t an option, you might want to:
- Help your loved one put together a shopping list of gifts for friends and relatives, and put a shopping trip on your to-do list.
- Help your loved one prepare and send cards.
- Bring in photo albums, videos, old cards from holidays past ─ anything that will bring a smile or raise a cherished memory ─ and go through them together.
- Throw a small party at the nursing home with family and friends, or organize something larger and fancier that includes other residents and staff.
- Watch holiday movies together.
- Make a video of holiday events going on at home and in the community that you can watch together and leave as a memento.
- If an event is planned for the nursing home and is open to family and friends, make it a group event.
Thinking Outside the Box – or the Nursing Home
Sharing the holidays with aging loved ones can, if physical and mental realities allow, include activities outside the nursing home. Appropriate options might include:
- Catch a holiday movie matinee together.
- Schedule a shopping trip tailored to the physical abilities of your loved one, choosing a time when shops will be less crowded and therefore less challenging.
- Schedule a day-trip to take in holiday sights and sounds in the community.
- Attend holiday religious services.
- If your children are participating in holiday activities such as school plays or caroling, include your elderly loved one if possible.
- Overnight visits to your home are a possibility, but those whose loved ones rely on Medicare or Medicaid should be careful not to do anything that jeopardizes the financial assistance.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy notes that “nursing home residents may leave their facility for family events without losing their Medicare coverage. However, depending on the length of their absence, beneficiaries may be charged a ‘bed hold’ fee by their skilled nursing facility (SNF).”
In Florida, according to the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, Medicaid will pay a nursing facility to reserve a resident’s bed during a therapeutic leave for a resident in a family-type setting for a maximum of 16 days every fiscal year.
At the end of the day, knowing the Medicare and Medicaid rules and working with the management of the facility can avoid penalties or loss of assistance.
Put These on Your Shopping List
It takes a bit of thought to buy appropriate and useful gifts for the elderly. Eleanor Feldman Barbera, who posts at the My Better Nursing Home website as “Dr. El,” has some gift suggestions for shoppers:
- Lotions, soaps, grooming products
- Lap blankets for use while in a wheelchair
- Wheelchair accessories such as cup holders, side pockets, and wheel lights
- Clothing that can survive repeated exposure to industrial washing machines
- Colorful bangle bracelets to blend in with nursing home wristbands
- Plants or potted flowers
Spread the Cheer Throughout the Rest of the Year
The holidays are a time when we think about family, but residents in nursing homes could use a little extra attention all year long so they don’t feel too isolated. Dr. El suggests:
- Commit to visit once a week or monthly.
- Commit to call once a week or daily.
- Coordinate with friends and family so that calls and visits come regularly.
- Bring a home-cooked meal.
- Coordinate with friends and family to provide home-cooked meals regularly.
There are some common-sense tips that apply here. Make sure that dietary restrictions aren’t violated. Communicate with staff to ensure any treats and food aren’t problematic, and be mindful of any allergies or potential dietary conflicts involving medication.
There’s another responsibility to loved ones that visitors to nursing homes should pledge to meet: Keep a close eye on care and surroundings to ensure the best possible service is being provided. If there is any hint of neglect or abuse, immediately bring it to the attention of management and, if necessary, the authorities.
If legal problems do arise, the Palm Coast law firm of Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant can help protect your loved ones and fight to hold those who harm them accountable. Our compassionate legal team takes pride in representing families with elderly loved ones throughout Flagler and Volusia counties, and we are always here when you need us.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you protect your loved ones.