By J. Scott Uloth, MD
Nursing Home Specialist
Parkview Care Center
“May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.” As the words of the immortal Bing Crosby classic echo through the halls and childhood memories are rekindled, we need to stop to take time to help make merry moments for our seniors. “May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.” As the words of the immortal Bing Crosby classic echo through the halls and childhood memories are rekindled, we need to stop to take time to help make merry moments for our seniors. (If you dream about the white stuff, you will have to talk to the Man upstairs about that!)
The season can bring joy as family and friends visit in greater numbers, or it can be a time of loneliness and remembrance of loved ones who have passed. Here are some things to help make the holidays bright for elders who live in care settings:
LOA (Leave of Absence): If your loved one’s medical condition allows it, you may take them out of the care setting for a LOA. Under Medicare guidelines, they just have to be back in the facility by midnight. Private insurances may allow for more time. A visit home or to a beautiful church concert can lift the spirits. However, keep in mind their overall stamina and condition when planning for the length of outing.
Treats: I must admit, I’m as bad as my kids rushing to my stocking on Christmas morning to see if there are some chocolate Santas hiding in the bottom. Certain foods always bring back vivid memories and are a fun way to reminisce and continue family traditions. Keep in mind some elders may have dietary restrictions. Take care with harder foods such as nuts, based on the person’s dentition. Always check with the nursing and care staff about foodstuffs in case a senior has dietary concerns, such as diabetes or is at risk for choking. This doesn’t mean that they can’t have any sweets. Usually there are creative ways to share holiday treats … just use a little bit of planning and common sense.
Visits: Nothing lights up a nursing home or care setting more than visits, especially from the younger generation, be it the high school choir or the local day care. It requires some extra effort, but the rewards will be well worth it with the laughs and smiles you will get back.
Most importantly, consider the gift that keeps on giving, even when the holidays are over. Make this the year to consider volunteering at a long-term care facility of your choice. Every activities director will be grateful for the help, especially during the difficult let down months after the holidays. There’s not a better way to love your neighbor and make their days merry and bright all year long. May God bless and keep you all in this season of joy.
Dr. Uloth completed his first two years of medical school on the University of Southern Indiana campus and graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine in 1992. For more information about USI’s gerontology programs, visit http://health.usi.edu/chaw/default.asp.