There’s no place like home, especially when it comes to celebrating special occasions like birthdays and Christmas holidays. Home is where the family gathers, traditions are faithfully observed, and new memories are created.
It can be heartbreaking for caregivers and their families to observe a holiday while someone important to them is spending the holidays in the hospital due to health concerns.
For people who reside in long-term care facilities, or are staying at the hospital awaiting a procedure (or recovering from one), spending the holidays in the hospital can be a lonely time. Not only are they feeling left out of the festivities, they’re also away from familiar faces and comforts of home.
Similarly, at home, it can be heartbreaking for caregivers and their families to observe a holiday while someone important to them is spending the holidays in the hospital due to health concerns.
Read on for caregiver holiday tips that you can use to make the Christmas season special for the people you are taking care of, no matter where the holiday celebrations take place.
Create a festive atmosphere
Give some thought to hospital room decorations. A simple way to liven up a drab hospital room is by placing a few decorative touches such as photos and holiday cards on the window ledge, or taping them up on the wall.
Ask your family and friends to take part by creating and sending holiday cards and photos, or other decorative elements such as garlands, hand-drawn pictures, and flowers. If the person you’re visiting has a hospital roommate, offer to share some of the holiday decorations you brought so that their side of the room has some holiday cheer as well.
Christmas music is another way to liven up a visit to a hospital or long-term care facility during the holidays. Create a playlist of favourite Christmas tunes and play it the next time you visit. Just remember to keep the volume at a reasonable level so you don’t disturb other hospital patients or care facility residents.
Make them merry
Check with the doctor if it’s possible for the person you’re taking care of to leave the facility for a brief visit home in order to spend Christmas with the family. If he or she cannot leave the residence or hospital for a brief visit at your home to celebrate, consider bringing the party to them.
Some care facilities have large function rooms that you can book to host a private holiday gathering so that you, your family members, and friends can all visit with the person you’re taking care of at the same time.
Consider opening up your holiday festivities to include other patients that your family member is friends with, or who may have no one to visit them during the Christmas season. Don’t forget to bring presents!
Try to participate in any special programming that the hospital or long-term care facility is hosting, such as Santa Claus visits, holiday performances, caroling, and religious services. Hospital and care facility holiday activities offer a great way to meet the staff and other patients in a relaxed environment, and for the person you’re taking care of to meet new friends while they spend the holidays in the hospital.
You can bring comfort and joy to other patients and their families just by reaching out and sharing with them your experiences as a caregiver. Your insight might help them get through the holidays knowing that they’re not alone in this situation. Share your holiday traditions with them, whether it’s singing, recalling funny stories, or playing board games.
Bring the comforts of home
Nothing brings thoughts of home to mind better than home cooking. Hospitals and long-term care facilities do their best to provide nutritional, well-balanced meals for their patients, but nothing compares to a favourite meal created by someone special.
Ask a doctor or nurse if it’s okay to bring some home-cooked meals for the person you know who is spending the holidays in the hospital, so that he or she can partake of your Christmas meal as well.
Bring items related to the interests of the person you’re taking care of so that he or she can have something to occupy their time on days when you’re not able to visit. A cherished toy, favourite blanket, or book are small items that can bring a lot of comfort to a lonely hospital patient who is away from home.
Create memories that last
The setting may not be ideal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have good holiday memories with the person you’re taking care of during your visits to the hospital or care facility.
An appreciative smile, a spark of recognition in the eyes of an Alzheimer’s patient, a squeeze of your hand – these, and many more, are the special moments you and the person you’re taking care of can add to the memory bank to look fondly back on when spirits get low.
Create a photo album filled with good holiday memories of this hospital stay or visit to the long-term care facility.
You can also record video holiday greetings from family members and friends that you can play for the person you’re caring for when you visit them. It will surely brighten their day and lift their spirits, knowing that so many people are thinking of them and taking the time to greet them during the Christmas season.
Don’t forget that quiet moments are also memories to be cherished. Take a moment to savour these peaceful moments with the person spending the holidays in the hospital or care facility. Reflect on the journey that you and that person took to get to this moment, and know that you’re being the best caregiver you can be.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Holiday stress is quite common this time of year, but when you add visiting someone in a hospital or care facility on a frequent basis, it’s easy to understand how overwhelmed caregivers can get during the holiday season.
Your network of family, friends, neighbours, and coworkers is made up of talented people who want to help you. We all need and appreciate such a network to provide care for caregivers, so just ask!
Read our Elizz article Share the care – follow these 7 caregiving rules to learn how you can preserve your own well-being as you care for another person during the holidays.
However you decide to mark the season with the person spending the holidays in the hospital or care facility, remember that they’re there for a reason, so it’s important to avoid over-stimulating or tiring them out.
If you arrive while they’re sleeping, don’t wake them up. He or she may have been up all night in pain, and this was their first opportunity to get some rest.
Do you have experience in celebrating the holidays in a hospital (or care facility) because the person you’re taking care of is there for health reasons?
Let us know how you make their holidays special in the comments section below!
If you are a family caregiver and you still have concerns or questions about celebrating the holidays in the hospital with the person in your care, let us help.
Elizz is the place in Canada for all things caregiving. As a Canadian not-for-profit organization, we offer a full range of caregiver support services as well as support for those you are caring for. We’d love to hear from you.
Call Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549) or visit us online to contact an Elizz caregiver coach.
Elizz is powered by Saint Elizabeth Health Care.
You might also like our Elizz article on Tips for Overcoming Holiday Blues in the Elderly.