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Celebrating the holidays with nursing home residents

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5 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays With Your Loved One in a Nursing Home

Celebrating the holidays with nursing home residents can bring them the joy of the season and also improve their quality of life. However, it can be hard to think of ways to include older adults and those living in nursing homes in the holiday festivities, especially if they live far away.

Here are 5 ways to spend time with your loved one in a nursing home this holiday, to show them you care, and to bring them holiday cheer.

1. Plan Holiday Activities to Do During Nursing Home Visits

First and foremost, try to visit your loved one at their nursing home or assisted living facility.

Frequent visits from family can improve the quality of life for nursing home residents and may even prevent nursing home abuse, according to a 2021 study in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

And the holidays are a wonderful occasion to make your visits a fun time spent together.

Some holiday and Christmas activities for nursing home residents include:

  • Attending holiday nursing home festivities. Most nursing homes offer a range of holiday celebrations like meals, caroling, and more. You can join some of these events to support your loved one.
  • Contacting friends and loved ones to wish them a happy holiday. When you visit, bring your phone and help your loved one call children, grandchildren, friends, and family members to wish them happy holidays. This can help them feel less isolated if they can’t join in regular festivities with their family.
  • Decorating cookies or homemade holiday treats. This can help nursing home residents feel creative and bring up positive memories from past holidays. Be sure that you aren’t breaking any dietary restrictions.
  • Exchanging gifts. Exchanging gifts is one of the most popular holiday traditions. Consider letting young children open a gift with your loved one, or give your loved one a gift or two to keep up their holiday spirit.
  • Listening to holiday/Christmas music. Have your own caroling session right in your loved one’s room, or play music in the background while you do other activities.
  • Making holiday cards together. If they are able, help write and send Christmas or holiday cards to keep them connected to their loved ones.

2. Decorate Your Loved One’s Living Space

Holiday decorations can often make a room feel warmer and cozier during the cold and dark months of winter. This can be incredibly important for nursing home residents of all ages, especially those who spend a large part of their day in their rooms.

Consider decorating a small Christmas tree, stringing lights, setting up a menorah for Hanukkah, bringing flameless candles for Kwanzaa, and putting up any other holiday decor around your loved one’s room.

Be sure you check with their direct caregivers or the nursing home staff or administration to avoid breaking any nursing facility rules. Consider your loved one’s safety as well when choosing decorations — avoid loose cords, too many breakables, and any highly flammable or hazardous items.

3. Take Your Loved One on a Holiday Outing

Depending on your loved one’s health, you may consider taking them on a holiday outing.

Take your holiday celebrations outside the facility by:

  • Attending religious holiday events at local churches or temples
  • Coordinating with senior organizations in your community, which often offer safe, fun, and free holiday activities for seniors
  • Going to a production of The Nutcracker or a holiday movie showing
  • Joining a local caroling group
  • Planning a holiday shopping trip
  • Seeing holiday light displays

Even just taking a short drive to look at neighborhood holiday decorations can help your loved one feel more involved in your life and the community.

4. Send a Care Package With Christmas Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Receiving gifts from family members can be exciting for older adults in nursing homes. Find out what personal items your loved one could use by speaking to their everyday caregivers.

Fill a holiday-themed box or gift bag with some of these necessities. Be sure to add in some fun favorites as well. Top it off with a hand-written holiday card to show them how much you care.

Here are some ideas for holiday or Christmas gifts for nursing home residents:

  • Books in their favorite genre
  • Decorative items for their room
  • Favorite craft or activity like puzzles, knitting or crocheting supplies, photo album materials, woodworking materials, etc.
  • Practical items, like socks, slippers, pajamas, comfortable clothing, and personal hygiene items
  • Small decorative throw pillows for their bed or chair
  • Warm blankets or quilts

5. Create a Virtual Family Holiday Gathering

If you aren’t able to visit your loved one in person, you could organize a virtual holiday gathering. You may have to coordinate with the nursing home staff members who will be on duty to ensure your loved one can participate and to learn the best time to call or video call.

Reach out to all family members, create a group chat, email, or messaging chain, and set a time that works best to chat with your loved one. During the call, you could talk about favorite memories from holidays past, quote your favorite Christmas movies, and help ward off any loneliness your loved one may be feeling.

Other Ways to Help Your Loved One in a Nursing Home Celebrate the Holidays

Sadly, it isn’t always possible to see your loved one in a nursing home or organize a virtual call during the holidays. When you can’t be present, here are some ways to show them you care.

Send a Digital Photo Frame with Pictures of Family

Feeling loved and seeing loved ones is crucial to an older adult’s well-being. But you can’t always be there.

Digital photo frames can hold anywhere from hundreds to thousands of photos. This capacity allows your loved one to see the people who matter most whenever they want.

Ask a Trusted Friend to Visit

Consider reaching out to a close friend or another family member who lives nearby and asking them to check in on your loved one.

You could also share a digital calendar with all loved ones who live close enough to visit the nursing home resident and schedule visiting days accordingly. This could be a great way to make sure your loved one isn’t showing any signs of abuse or nursing home neglect, as well.

That way, your loved one doesn’t miss out on opportunities to spend time with the people who matter most to them or spend the holiday season without friends and family.

Reach Out to the Community for Support

You could also do a little research to learn if there are any local volunteer groups who may be willing to spend time with your loved one during the holidays.

For example, you could get in touch with a local high school and find out if any high school students are in need of volunteer hours who may want to visit your loved one and spend time with them with various activities.

The Holiday Season & Nursing Homes

The holiday season should be a joyful time for nursing home residents, and with in-person visits for holiday celebrations, it can be.

But you should also be sure to look for signs that your loved one is thriving in the care facility. Are they happy, or are they perhaps showing signs of abuse or neglect?

While the holidays are a time for festivities, they can also be a useful way to make sure your family member is getting the help they need — and stepping in to protect them if they’re not.

If your loved one has experienced abuse or neglect in a nursing home, the Nursing Home Abuse Center may be able to help. Contact us now to find out how.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

  1. Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. Fact Sheet: Leaving a Nursing Home During the Day or Overnight. Retrieved December 19, 2023, from https://mltcop.org/sites/default/files/2019-02/Leaving%20Nursing%20Home%20overnight%20fact%20sheet%20%2011-8-18%20PROOF%20%282%29.pdf
  2. National Library of Medicine. Re-Imagining Family Involvement in Residential Long-Term Care. Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. Retrieved December 19, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8821144/