How Activity Professionals can Save the World of LTC by Creating Joy and Festivity for Isolated People during the Holidays
Many older people are isolated. Period. Before, during, and after a pandemic. It is the effect of being institutionalized. I offer here many ideas to inspire you to go deeper and further with people as individuals. We stress groups way too much. Please see previous articles if that is new information for you.
Go out of your way to discover each person’s Christmas holiday traditions, rituals, favorite parts. Yes. This is digging into the details of each person’s life. This honors each. This is normal. This is perhaps the best thing you could do. Perhaps intentionally keep a paper in the person’s room that states these things. Teach and then encourage all team members to look at it and comment and create conversation around it. Being well known is a premise of a changed culture, of a non-institutional culture.
Build upon the MDS Section F question regarding a person’s favorite activity. Ask for each person’s favorite part of the Christmas holiday season. Talk about it during larger groups. Make it a focus to ask each individual more and more about their life, their memories, their thoughts, their opinions. Give them time to respond. Sometimes we all need conversation to also remember better, myself included.
Please take all these ideas with what I call a grain of salt of individualization. As you know, some ideas will fit some people but not all.
And as far as money goes, please remember there is a progression you can follow. First, the person sometimes does have money and wants or needs to use it. Second, families/friends often appreciate ideas. Thirdly, if you needed to you could have a drive to collect certain items. Fourthly, maybe then you consider your budget. Each scenario is different.
Maybe make it possible for each to make a Wish List. That might be meaningful to some. Or perhaps turn it into a Prayer List depending upon the person.
Maybe pursue helping each person to get an Advent Calendar. This will mean different things to different people but could be offered to all.
How about opportunities to shop for gifts for others? Now that’s normal. Thank you for taking people out to shop and for helping to shop online. Some of you host a Christmas Store or Market. Wouldn’t that be fun? I’ve seen communities do this intentionally for people who live in nursing homes and assisted livings.
How about a huge push for sending Christmas cards to everyone? And not the practice where everyone signs the same card. Make it special. Encourage the generous giving of cards: materials to make them, or offer blank ones and boxed ones of all sorts. Remind and encourage people who live where you work to bless those who choose to work there. Do the same for those who work there. Remind all it is a way to spread joy and cheer that is desperately needed. This is how you can change the landscape of long-term care.
Be intentional about this season beyond what we traditionally do. Think of what people do at home. Opportunities to wrap presents. A Christmas photo shoot. Opportunities to make elegant craft décor -not “chincy” – but the kind any of us would proudly display in our homes. Nativity scenes. Stockings. Lights – thank God for battery lights available to us. Additionally, there are battery operated Menorah candles. Small or mini Christmas trees. Christmas décor, napkins, candy canes, ornaments or make them. Offer warm beverages like hot chocolate, mocha coffees and egg nogg. Lots of Christmas music everywhere. Christmas music boxes. Christmas snow globes maybe. Lights to look out outside. Amarilys and Christmas cactus plants maybe.
Don’t plan, as we’ve mentioned before, give the planning back. Ask, “What would you personally and you as a group like to do for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day?”
And if people still need ideas for gifts, consider and please pass on the following.
Magazine subscriptions, maybe more than one. This creates the receipt of mail and a way to continue to pursue interests. A newspaper subscription, some just pour over them all day. A deck of cards is inexpensive and provides many options. Big, beautiful photo books perhaps of beaches or mountains or destination books of places one has been or never got to. Next article we will delve into new ideas for the New Year. You hold the key for creating joy and festivity. I challenge you to do it different this year. Get laser focused on what is normal. Guard normal. Thos who live there will likely thank you. I thank you. God bless you for it.
Carmen Bowman, MHS, of Edu-Catering: Catering Education for Compliance and Culture Change is an activities/engagement consultant and culture change expert. New or not-yet-qualified activity director consultation, personalized continuing education and culture change consulting for the whole team. As a Regulator turned Educator, Carmen also provides “be your own surveyor” training. Training videos now available on https://www.patreon.com/educatering