Making Holiday Wishes
By Myrtle Klauer, ADC, CAP
For most individuals, the holidays bring thoughts of family gatherings, feasting, bright
lights, homemade cookies, holiday cards, and gifts. The holidays can also bring
loneliness and depression to those whose loved ones and friends are far away
Thanks to the facility staff and caring individuals in the community, residents in long
term care facilities will be able to enjoy the holidays and look forward to 2010. To help
facilities fulfill the residents' holiday wishes and experience the joy of meaningful visits,
the Illinois Council has released some helpful hints.
Activity Directors should be prepared to provide possible gift ideas to individuals who
may want to purchase a gift for a resident. The first step is to compile a list of the
residents, with gift ideas next to each resident's name. Keep this list handy. When
someone chooses to purchase a gift for a resident, write the name of that individual
next to the resident's name. Be sure to establish a date when the present(s) are
Give the staff and volunteers an opportunity to fulfill the holiday wish for a resident. Post
information about the program in the staff break room and where volunteers sign-in.
Ask the individuals purchasing the gifts to wrap them and write his or her resident's
name on each package. Recruit a volunteer Santa to deliver the gifts on a day close to
Christmas. Separate the gifts by floor/unit and place them in large laundry bags or on
Plan a party on each floor/unit the day the gifts are to be distributed. Be sure to invite
everyone who purchased gifts to take part, so they can see the residents open their
Holiday Gift Ideas for Nursing Home Residents
The following is a list of holiday gift ideas for nursing home residents:
• Stationery, note cards, greeting cards, pens, and stamps
• Calendar for 2010 with dates marked on it for upcoming birthdays, anniversaries,
etc. For birthdays, mark down how old the person will be on that day; for anniversaries,
the number of years together
• Address book with addresses written in for family and friends
• Cardigan sweaters, sweat suits, pajamas, and ladies' housecoats and dusters
• Firm shoes with rubber soles; enclosed slippers with non-slip soles
• Clocks with large numbers
• Radios, CD players, tape players
• CDs of a loved one's favorite music, such as songs from the 20s, 30s, 40s, and
• Televisions and DVD players
• DVDs of favorite TV shows from years past such as I Love Lucy, The Jack Benny
Show, and Burns and Allen. Also, favorite movies such as Citizen Kane and The
• Magazine subscriptions, such as Woman's Day, Family Circle, Time, Sports
Illustrated, Newsweek, etc. Also, large print magazines such as Reader's Digest
• Books in large print editions
• Electric razors, disposable razors and shaving cream
• Checkers, chess, and decks of cards
• Large print crossword puzzle or word find books
• Brushes and combs
• Handheld mirror or magnifying mirror on a pedestal
• Hand lotion and facial tissues
• For the men: boxer shorts, V-neck t-shirts, and socks
• Framed family photographs
• Cologne, perfume, or after shave
• Gift certificates to the facility's on-site beautician, barber, or gift shop
The Activity Director also needs to include information about gifts that are not
appropriate for the resident they are buying for. For example, if the resident has arthritis,
explain how he or she needs things that are easy to put on and take off. Suggest they
consider purchasing clothing items that are easy to wear, such as jogging suits and
If the resident has swallowing difficulties or a restrictive diet, caution the buyer not to
send food items such as candy, cookies, and fruit. If the resident has Alzheimer's or a
related dementia, instruct the buyer not to send liquid items such as perfume, cologne,
after shave, or lotion, because these items may end up being swallowed.
Helpful Advice for Children Visiting Nursing Homes During the Holidays
During the holidays, many individuals visit their loved ones in nursing homes to spread
good cheer, participate in seasonal activities, and celebrate the love of friends and
family. Some of these holiday visitors include children who may be unprepared for the
realities of a long-term care setting.
Visiting a nursing home can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience for young
and old. With a little forethought and planning, parents can help make this visit a
successful one for their kids.
The Activity Director also needs to prepare information for families with children who
would like to visit with a resident during the holidays. To help parents, the following
recommendations will help children connect with nursing home residents during the
• Talk with your children about what to expect during a nursing home visit, such as
seeing residents in wheelchairs or others who may be unresponsive. Answer any
questions or concerns your children may have. Discuss their feelings about visiting
• Stop by the children's section of your local bookstore. There are several good
children's books available that address understanding the elderly. Reading this type of
book with young children can help in making them more comfortable with visiting a
nursing home resident.
• Try to plan the visit a week or two in advance. The best times to visit are generally
mid-morning, mid-afternoon and early evening. Be sure to contact the elder or the
elder's caregiver to ask him or her what time of the day would be best.
• Think ahead of time about some possible activities that could involve the elder and
the children. Bring any needed supplies with you to the visit. By participating in an
activity, the children will feel more comfortable and engaged, and will walk away having
had a better experience. (Creative activity ideas are listed below.)
• During their visits, children may need some gentle encouragement to overcome
their shyness. The parent can offer some questions to get the conversation going, such
as asking their kids to discuss their hobbies or participation in school sports teams.
Young children could introduce their favorite toys to an elder as an icebreaker.
• After the visit, talk about what happened and what the children felt. Be sure to
answer any of their questions openly and honestly.
Here are some creative activity suggestions for the visit, including many that are holiday-
• Help decorate the resident's room for the holidays.
• Sing familiar holiday songs. Bring along some song sheets and a cassette player
• Read a favorite book together, including holiday stories. If possible, bring over a
book in large print.
• Make simple tree ornaments or other craft projects.
• Put together a small scrapbook of family photographs.
• Look at some holiday catalogs and ask for the elder's advice on choosing gifts for
family and friends.
• Participate in a facility activity program together. Contact the facility's activity director
to discuss upcoming events.
• Take the senior for a walk around the facility, and enjoy a meal together.
• Play cards, checkers, matching games or board games.
• Look over family photo albums to spark memories and conversation. Or, take
some new family photographs together at the facility.
• Do an activity together related to the family's religion, such as reading stories from
the Bible or other religious texts.
• Bring in items related to the elder's interests. For instance, for a male nursing
home resident who is a car buff, the children could bring in model cars, car magazines,
glossy dealership brochures, or give a tour of the family's new car. Have the children
use these items to spark conversation.
• Have the children bring a small gift for their loved one. Possible gifts could include
hand lotion, brushes, combs, note cards, stationery, framed family pictures or large
• Have the children "interview" their elderly relatives about their lives. Work together
with the kids ahead of time to prepare a list of questions. Consider recording these
responses on videotape or audio cassette.
Most importantly, don't make the holiday visit just a one-time experience. Both the elder
and the children would benefit greatly from continuing these visits throughout the year.
An ongoing series of visits allows for a true relationship to develop, helping children to
connect with the elderly in many meaningful ways. These visits will provide young
people with important life lessons that pay off for years to come.
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