By Bonnie Camp, BSW
|Spirituality and the Holidays|
|The Importance of Involvement|
When the hustle and bustle of the holidays is fast approaching, it is important to remember our loved ones who are in area nursing homes. This can be a depressing time for them. They are separated from the normal routine and for many of them this may be their first time away from home during the holidays. Family members should realize the importance of reaching out to their family and friends living in nursing homes and try to make their loved ones holidays as “merry and bright” as possible.
Too often residents feel forgotten and unimportant during this time of the year. While everyone is out shopping and making cookies and wrapping presents, our older adults may be sitting and waiting for a friendly visit and/or to be included in the holiday festivities in some way. Investing in your loved one can be key to a happier holiday for both you and your loved one.
One of the ways you can keep your loved one involved in the holiday spirit is to visit them often. Visits from family and friends are always welcome and especially dear around the holidays when they may be feeling a little neglected. The time you spend with your loved one can be a positive experience for both of you. It can help their day go a little faster, and of course seem a little more special because of a visit from a family member or friend.
Taking a loved one home, if it is at all possible while you are preparing for the holiday festivities, will make them feel they are still a part of the celebration. If your loved one is physically able to leave the facility to share in your holiday experience , it can make the holiday all the more special for them and you. Residents are very grateful to have the opportunity to be with loved ones during the holidays and they are appreciative of the time you are willing to spend with them. Also, another plus is that once you have them home their enthusiasm is contagious!
And while we are on the subject of visits, visits are GREAT! Nursing home residents love visits. Many treasure visits with children and grandchildren the most. Children, while adequately chaperoned, can be a real source of enjoyment and pleasure for an older adult. And don’t rule out visits from pets as well. Many of our nursing home residents love to have visits from pets. Check with your nursing home to see if there is anyone available for pet therapy. Quite a few nursing homes have people who are willing to bring in their pets who have been certified to do friendly pet visits. If this is the case in your loved one’s nursing home, see if there is a list that your loved one can put their name on requesting a friendly visit from the visiting pet the next time they come into the facility.
Getting your loved one in touch with their spirituality during the holidays can be especially helpful as well. The holidays are a time when many older adults reminisce of days gone by. While this is usually a pleasant experience, it can be a little sad because of the many losses we experience by the time we are older adults. A resident’s spirituality can be a comfort and a source of strength for them during the holiday season. Getting your loved one in touch with a counselor or person from the clergy can be helpful in addressing the loneliness and spiritual concerns that they may have in their lives. Most nursing homes are good at having an area priest or pastor available to visit with residents. Speaking with the nursing home social worker or administrator and setting up a visit for your loved one can be a source of personal strength and encouragement for them during the holidays.
If at all possible, try to get your loved one involved in a project that allows them to reach out to someone else. Most residents love to be productive and involved in other people’s lives. You never lose the urge to make a difference to someone less fortunate than yourself.
There are all types of projects that older adults can get involved in. Making holiday cards is one activity that does not require a lot of energy and can be done at a resident’s leisure, when they are feeling up to it. Depending on how involved the resident wants to be, they can either make cards for their friends and family or they can make cards for other people in the community who could use a friendly reminder that they are being thought of.
Another project that is special to my heart is the “Holiday Diary”. This can be done with the assistance of a family member or friend if need be, but the idea is to get the resident to document a holiday remembrance so that it can be saved as a keepsake for the family record. It can be called the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. For this project, the loved one recalls a special holiday moment, a story, a gift received and/or given or special holiday song that meant so much to them and maybe still does for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. This is a great way to find out about holiday traditions and special times that happened long ago. Keeping a written journal of these special moments can be a treasure in years to come.
Bonnie Camp is a senior at Richard Stockton College in NJ and plan to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, a minor in gerontology and a minor in writing in May 2010. She is a trained volunteer with the New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly and a hospice volunteer. Ms. Camp is also the unit chair for NASW Cape May-Atlantic-Cumberland unit.