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A resident being merry in the nursing home

December 19, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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With another holiday season approaching, I remember my 15 Christmases living in nursing homes and how the holiday itself has changed. That first Christmas was an adjustment—I had no way to go out and shop for a tree or gifts. An aide brought me a tree and an activity assistant picked up my gifts and wrapped them. That definitely gave me some cheer and I was pleased to see staff decorate the facility on their own time after work.

As the years passed, fewer staff volunteered to decorate. It ended up getting done during work hours. There were fewer decorations but I felt it was better without being “over the top” as before. (It was also probably safer that way.) Smaller, well placed decorations were just as nice. But since nursing home decorations are put up early, wear and tear from residents and staff can knock them out of their intended positions. Each year I longed to redo them myself so they would be lovely until after New Year’s.

Holiday time brings changes in the temperament of some staff—particularly the aides. They talk about holiday plans, their work schedules and how much they have to do. I know most of them are overwhelmed and are trying to work, stay well and get their holiday together.

Residents also show different moods as well. Some know they will visit family and are more upbeat because of it. Others depend on the facility for their holiday plans. And some even feel down, act out and spend Christmas Day in their rooms.

This is my second Christmas at this particular facility. Because of a roommate and limited space, there is no place for a small Christmas tree. Still, I wanted merriness and found a multicolored lighted wreath online, which the maintenance man hung last week. Now it is providing the glow of Christmas warmth on my wall.

I purchased a few gifts online, which are being shipped to the recipients. I do not have to worry about opening shipped boxes or having gifts disappear that way. But I will miss the magic of overseeing them decked out in colorful gift bags and paper.

The best part of the holiday for me is maintaining a tradition with my friends and family. I am to visit with my sister and her family before Christmas, but even if that did not happen, they are very close by email. I also enjoy helping other residents have a happier holiday, either by giving them a small, useful gift or by singing Christmas carols with them.

I realize that at 63, I could live in nursing homes for many more years to come. I am hoping in the future Christmas preparations will change and maybe residents will get more involved with making ornaments and decorations for the facility, which is their home.

Christmas does not have to be grandiose or be like a Norman Rockwell painting. Christmas is a feeling in the heart.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...