Planning for the Holidays

With Thanksgiving upon us in less than three weeks, it’s time for this perennial post from Dr. El at

‘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.

5 thoughts on “Planning for the Holidays”

  1. Dr. El,

    Thank you for this important reminder!

    I have even experienced residents not participating in facility events, anxious that they may miss the visit. It’s so sad then when no one shows up.

    • I’ve seen that too, Sue, and I encourage people to have some fun while they’re waiting, and reassure them that when (and if) their family arrives, they’ll be able to find the resident in an activity. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s more successful if the whole holiday plan is discussed in advance.


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