The holidays can be a difficult time of year, especially for residents in nursing homes. Many residents once hosted family gatherings, or were regulars at a holiday event, but now their physical disability complicates their participation in familiar rituals. Last year I wrote a post on this topic from the residents’ point of view, ‘Twas the Week Before Christmas…. This year I’m hoping to gather creative ways family members have come together to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones, despite the challenges of physical limitations. Here I offer a few suggestions, and hope you’ll add your ideas and experiences to the Comments section below.
A few years ago, my Aunt Bevy wasn’t feeling well enough to join us for our annual family gathering, so my cousins and I stopped by with leftovers and a quiet chat after the festivities. I know she appreciated that visit, especially since it was the first time she’d ever missed our party.
Most residents would like to be at the home of a family member to celebrate the season, but once they’re in the nursing home, it’s not as simple as picking them up at the door. With some advance planning, the physicians can write out the home pass orders, and the nurses can gather the necessary medications and provide instructions so loved ones can spend a few hours with the family.
If the holidays will be spent in a home that’s not wheelchair accessible, the family could gather for a separate meal in an accessible restaurant, or some members could join the resident for dinner at the nursing home.
If a resident is on a special diet, such as puree, for example, a variety of pureed soups and puddings could be offered, as recommended by the dietary department.
I once knew a man who wasn’t able to eat and was on a tube feed. At Thanksgiving, he and his children gathered at the nursing home for a gratitude ceremony, sharing aloud the things they were grateful for that year, and the qualities they treasured in each other. It wasn’t the Thanksgiving everyone was used to, but they’d created a ritual that fit for their new circumstances.