The holiday season can be a lonesome period for people living in retirement homes. The days are shorter, the snow makes travel difficult and joints ache acutely, and the cold makes it hard to get outside. Looking out the nursing home window and watching the world celebrate can make things worse.
Remember your aging relatives this year. As people age, they tend to find family even more important to them than ever. If your elderly parents or grandparents are stuck inside a home, bring the holidays to them. They’ll be deeply grateful. And remember everything they’ve done for you throughout the years. Here are some simple ways to enliven someone’s holiday season.
Bring Good Food
Nursing home staff are hard workers, and they try to appease residents’ tastes as much as possible. They really do. But there’s nothing that beats a home-cooked meal from straight out of the family’s cookbook. In addition to the obvious joys of food that tastes great, a classic family meal can bring the long lost past right to your relatives’ table. Taste and smell are tied closely to memory, according to many experts. Your gift of food could be just the thing to rekindle the family holiday magic.
Bring Things to Do
People in nursing homes can get bored. They’re there all the time, after all. Your grandparents have almost certainly already done all the fun things there is to do at their home. Don’t rely on them for entertainment. Bring games. Bring new movies. Like food, an old piece of entertainment can conjure memories of the good life. You’re a visitor from the outside world, a place they might not get out into much these days. Bring some of that outside world with you when you visit the nursing home. You may want to ask your relatives ahead of time what would be a good change of pace. There is a lot of variation among nursing homes.
Go Beyond Nostalgia
Bringing nothing but old memories can be hurtful to some senior citizens. They’re still modern people living through new experiences. Relying on nothing but old photo albums and the like may make your grandparents feel like a memory is all they are to you. Bring new things. Many elderly people are eager technology users. Don’t assume that grandpa won’t be able to figure out your iPad, or that he won’t be interested. Remember that seniors have watched these technologies blossom over the decades and may be fascinated by new developments.
Focus on the Person
Your visit is not all about you. Don’t assume that because your grandparents spend most of their time inside, they’re not thinking or doing interesting things. Listen to them. Older adults are often filled with stories; the amount of downtime nursing home residents often have means that they spend lots of time with their memories, and may even be remembering old things they haven’t thought about in decades. Because of this, they may have a better sense of their life’s overall story than you have of yours. Give your grandparents time to talk and reflect and even lecture. They’ll be thankful for the audience, and you’ll undoubtedly come away with some interesting new ideas.
Matt Rhoney is an avid reader on trending topics and a writer in his spare time. On the beautiful coast of North Carolina you will usually find him catching up on the latest news with locals or on the beach surfing, kayaking or paddle boarding. He loves to write pieces on health, fitness, and wellness, but often writes about families and safety.