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by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC,
Executive Director of
DH Special Services.
“Adopt a Mom” for Mother’s Day”

National Nursing Home Week serves many purposes.  It is a week to celebrate the lives of elders living in
long term care facilities and that can be easily portrayed in this year’s theme of “Legends in Our Own
Time”.  The American Health Care Association has pioneered this special week and has offered great
themes every year for the long term care profession to embrace and to guide specialized programming.

National Nursing Home Week begins with Mother’s Day, a special day unto its own.  Many facilities kick
off the week with Open Houses, Special Luncheons and other events celebrating Mom.   Mother’s Day
itself can be a bitter sweet day for our elderly female residents.   Some have family who live too far away
and cannot visit on Mother’s Day.  Others have their Mother’s Day visits on Saturday or the week before,
because their family is busy with their own celebrations.    This leaves some female resident without
visitors on this day, which can provoke feelings of sadness.   

The “Adopt a Mom” program is a successful program which generates community awareness and can
be a wonderful program to start the week’s festivities.  The program requires much preparation and
organization, but is very rewarding for residents, the facility and the community.  The “Adopt a Mom”
program matches up female residents who will not have visitors on Mother’s Day and community
volunteers who want to “adopt” a mom for the day.  

Initial preparation efforts should go into canvassing the resident population to find those residents
interested in receiving a volunteer “family” and to find out if their family is not coming to visit on Mother’s
Day.  The oriented resident can answer for themselves.  However, residents with cognitive loss can also
participate depending on their social skills and ability to tolerate a change of pace in their routine.  Once
the residents are screened and selected, the potential for visitors should be determined through social
services, the medical record or discussion with family members.  Many family members are pleased to
hear Mom will have visitors on Mother’s Day, as they can pursue their own plans with less guilt.  

Seeking volunteer “families” from the community is the next step.  The newspaper might run a feature
story on the event if you approach them a week or more prior to the date.   Putting up flyers in schools,
colleges, grocery stores, churches and other public places also might get the word out.   Any potential
“family” volunteers need to be screened carefully.   They should complete an application of sorts and
have a brief review of rules and expectations for the day.  Each potential volunteer should be interviewed
prior to the event, to determine their understanding of the elderly and their expectation for the day.  

Prior to the event, careful consideration should be given to matching up residents with “volunteer
families”.   Residents who enjoy children should be matched up with the families who visit.   The
coordinator of the program should try to match personality types, individuals from the same area and
other common features between the volunteer and resident.  To just put volunteers with any resident on
the list is often not successful.  
Within the week prior to the event, a meeting should be held with the residents who will be receiving
volunteer “families” that day.   They should be reminded and prepared for the day’s events and what will
be occurring.  The interdisciplinary staff should be in serviced as to their role in the process.  They will
need to make the volunteer families feel welcome and also provide support in supervision and
monitoring of all the first time visitors that day.  A day prior to the event, each volunteer family should be
called and confirmed.  There is nothing worse than a resident waiting for their “family” and they do not

Finally, Mother’s Day arrives.   Refreshment tables should be set up throughout the common areas.  
Beverages, desserts and snack foods suitable for visitors and residents should be available.   
Entertainment should be scheduled for some of the common areas also.  Possibly having a harpist in
the lobby as guests arrive, having a livelier entertainer in the dining rooms and taped music in other
areas are welcomed forms of diversion.  A welcome table should be set up with name tags for all the
“family volunteers”.  A welcome pamphlet should be provided, with information regarding refreshments
and entertainment.  Junior volunteers can act as escorts to introduce the volunteer “family” to the
resident.  Sometimes the nursing assistants want to help by introducing the volunteers to their residents

Once all the visitors arrive, it is a joyful sight to see so many smiles. Photo opportunities should be
provided with quick printing of “family portraits”.   The volunteer “families” are often amazing in their
kindness and generosity, bringing flowers and small gifts along with their smiles and time.   Many of the
volunteers continue to visit with their “adopted mom” after Mother’s Day and sometimes begin to
volunteer in the activity department as well.  

Although the program requires many hours of preparation and planning, it is a program that is
memorable for all – residents, staff and the community.  And that is what National Nursing Home Week is
all about.
Let Debbie answer your
Activity Questions
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, is
the Executive Director of DH Special
Services. She is a Certified Activity
Consultant on State and National
level, with over twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct care
and consultation to long term care,
medical day care, assisted living,
and ICF/MR facilities throughout New
Jersey, New York, Maryland, and
Pennsylvania. She is an experienced
trainer and workshop presenter,
conducting a variety of seminars
throughout the Tri-State area for the
Activity Professional, Administrator,
and allied healthcare professional.
Debbie Hommel is an active member
of Activity Professional Associations
on State and National levels. She is
ACC certified through the NCCAP.
She is a founding member of the
New Jersey Activity Professionals'
Association, serving terms as Vice
President and President. She
received the Weidner Lifetime
Achievement Award in 1994 and the
Monmouth & Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life Achievement
Award in 1999.
Music: "Alexander's Rag Time Band" furnished by Heart and Soul Music "Providing Quality Music for Nursing Homes"
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