Planning for the Holidays with Nursing Home Residents


I posted this before the holidays in 2008, but it’s worth repeating:

‘Twas the week before Christmas…

And 83-year old Albertha assured me her family was planning to take her home for the holidays.

“Have you talked to them about it? Have they called the social worker to arrange a pass, and meds, and transportation?”
“No,” she replied, “but they’re coming to get me.”
‘Twas the week after Christmas, and Albertha was glum.
“They didn’t show up. I waited all day, but they didn’t come.”
Albertha spent Christmas day watching other people go out on pass and return, and seeing families arriving with food and gifts and smiles.
Now my patients and I start discussing the holidays a few weeks in advance, addressing wishes and practicalities, phoning families if needed, and getting the social worker involved. We set up a hierarchy of plans.
Plan A: Go home for the day.
Plan B: Go out to a wheelchair accessible restaurant with family.
Plan C: Have visitors come with food and go around the corner for coffee, if possible, just to get out.
Plan D: Stay in with visitors and food.
Plan E: Talk to family members on the telephone, discussing plans for a future visit, while sitting in a room festooned with cards and holiday decorations. Attend the nursing home holiday party.
Plan F: Have a small holiday gathering in the room with nursing home friends after the facility party.
Since then, my people know what to expect from the holidays, even if the expectation is that their family might not arrive as hoped.

3 thoughts on “Planning for the Holidays with Nursing Home Residents”

  1. Dr. El,

    I believe this post is worth repeating every year.

    The holidays are hard on many residents, I have frequently been amazed at how little it takes many residents to be happy. Even short visits can make a resident feel special. Thank you for outlining alternatives to going home. I bet your "heiarchy of plans" will improve the quality of life for many people this holiday season.

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  2. Thanks, Sue. I wrote this post because I've found residents (and families) often get into black and white thinking and forget there are many shades of gray between going home for the holidays and staying at the nursing home.

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  3. Thanks for blog.There are many activities that can be planned with the help of the staff, volunteers and residents. These are some ideas for nursing home activities i.e Birthday Celebrations,Celebrating Holidays,Outdoor Activities,Games,Painting and Creative Crafts etc.
    Nursing Home Facilities Beaumont

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