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Resident Gifts

November 30, 2008
by Kathleen Mears
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During the holidays you will want to send a gift to a loved one near or far who is in a nursing home. Since I have lived in a nursing home for years and received many gifts, these are my suggestions.

Remember that nursing home rooms, particularly semiprivate ones, do not have a lot of storage space. Avoid purchasing large items. If you want to buy a CD or DVD player find out what the facility allows. Also find out if your resident can operate it or if the staff will need to assist them.

If you want to give food, make sure that your resident's dietary restrictions do not prohibit them. Also, items needing refrigeration cannot be kept for very long. If you live nearby, a resident's favorite meal would be welcome and you could take the leftovers home with you.

Perhaps you could purchase an amenity for your resident. Many residents would enjoy having their own telephone with the service fee paid each month. Newspaper or magazine gift subscriptions are good choices. Consider audio books or CDs, but remember there are storage issues with them as well. A flashlight and extra batteries are useful especially during power outages.

If you live far from your resident, contact someone nearer to check their status before purchasing or sending a gift. This is always good policy. If there is no family member nearby, contact the facility and staff can probably assist you. Do not automatically send the pound of chocolates that you always send. Your resident's health, diet, and eating habits may have changed and candy may no longer be something they can enjoy.

If you want to bring Christmas decorations for your resident, check with the facility to see what is allowed. There are small trees available that are appropriate for nursing home rooms. Trees with battery-operated lights guarantee safety and require no electrical outlet. If the tree requires electricity, find out what type of extension cord you are allowed to use. Go easy on the decorations. Too much is definitely not appreciated by the housekeeping staff or aides. Find something small that is eye pleasing.

If you want to give flowers, poinsettias do not do well in warm rooms. So if you want to bring one, make it a small one. It is always a good idea to bring small flower arrangements. Bear in mind that your resident’s roommate may have breathing problems or might be allergic to them. Flowers do require attention from someone, especially living plants.

Usable gifts are clothing, toiletries, photos, picture frames, bed throws, and lap blankets. Make sure that these items are machine washable and dryable. It is better not to buy expensive clothing, unless a family member or friend is doing the resident’s laundry and keeping track of the clothing. Even with the best intentions, clothing can be misplaced or lost. It is better to buy moderately priced clothing and replace it more often.

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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...