Celebrating the Holidays in Long Term Care
The holidays can be stressful, but they can be especially trying for residents in a long-term care facility. After a lifetime of having family and tradition to define the holidays, residents find themselves in a nursing home instead. The stress can vary from person to person. It’s somewhat less traumatic if there has been enough time to build new relationships, and more so if the person is less social, or has barriers to entering into new relationships.
It can be very stressful for the families as well. Loved ones who may not regularly visit come to the facility at holiday time, and their unfamiliarity with the condition of their friend or relative is often unsettling. The reaction they have can affect the resident negatively, triggering behaviors and poor interactions with staff. Trying to include the resident in traditional family activities can prove difficult if not impossible, especially if the demands are more than the resident is capable of at the moment.
Resident mood changes can also be difficult to navigate. Many times, cognizant residents are overwhelmed with memories of past holidays and loved ones and become sad when making a comparison with their current situation. Becoming withdrawn, unusually quiet, and refusing to take part in activities, or having a poor appetite are signs that there may be a problem. Listening to staff speak to each other about their plans, gift buying, or holiday dinner plans sounds innocent, but can trigger feelings of loss and loneliness.
Trying to combat the above is a challenge, and it takes a team to come up with solutions that are right for residents and their families. By listening to the residents and including them in the decision-making process, the holidays can be fun and exciting for all those involved. Creating a variety of activities that include family members and focus on the new traditions can help the residents to cope.