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Facility Christmas Memories

December 14, 2008
by Kathleen Mears
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I suppose no one looks forward to their first Christmas in a nursing home. I remember on my first Christmas here, I wanted a small Christmas tree for my room. I asked an aide if she would pick one up if I reimbursed her. She agreed, brought me a small tree, and would not let me pay her. I enjoyed that tree because it gave me my personal Christmas. I missed so many things about my Christmases at home. I had no way to shop and no Internet to shop online. I asked staff and friends to pick up small gifts for me and I repaid them. I was very grateful that they helped me, but I remember feeling very needy. It seemed like everyone was doing for me and that I was not doing for anyone.

Twelve years ago the staff decorated the facility. They divided it into sections and had a contest with each department decorating a specific area. I was amazed at what some staff did to transform a hall into candy land. Pictures on the wall were covered with wrapping paper to look like presents. Most staff decorated on their own time. I felt they really cared and wanted to make the facility look special.

Now the facility is decorated but it no longer takes on a fantasy look. That is better though, and more environmentally friendly. There also is less cleaning up to do after the holidays. After watching the decorating for a few years, I thought the residents should get involved. So several years ago I asked the administrator if we residents could make wreaths for Christmas. I had seen a wreath made out of milkweed pods on the Internet. I used to do crafts and thought it would be fun. A family member donated two wreath rings. Staff gathered milkweed pods and brought them in. They decided to clean them in the dining room which I did not think was a good idea. After they were cleaned, there were furry, milkweed pod seeds flying everywhere. The activity aide thanked me sarcastically for suggesting this quite messy craft idea.

A few days later I went to the dining room when the residents were working on their wreath. They were using a wreath ring covered with artificial pine. They were decorating it with goldenrod from around the facility and artificial flowers. Though their wreath was not symmetrical or artsy, they enjoyed doing it so much. I was so glad they were allowed to do it.

Later a nurse's daughter assisted me with the milkweed pod wreath. I told her what to put where and she manned the glue gun. The resulting wreath turned out beautifully and it was nice to make a Christmas decoration. The wreaths were hung with pride that year.

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What a beautiful story! Having worked in management in long term care for 20 years, I so love to hear the heart stories that fill the residents we love to overflowing. This would be one of those stories. I would hope our residents could feel that same "family closeness" within our facility.

Wistful, that is exactly the word that has escaped me
when I think with fondness about Christmas past. I just retired this year as a nursing home administrator and previously a nurse in long term care. What a wealth of loving experiences that environment can bring to your life and others by both working there and living there. May this be a beautiful Christmas for you and me!

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

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