There’s no place like home, especially when it comes to celebrating special occasions like birthdays and seasonal holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah.
Home is where the family gathers, traditions are faithfully observed, and new memories are created.
For people who reside in long-term care facilities, or are staying at the hospital awaiting a procedure (or recovering from one), the holidays can be a lonely time. Not only are they feeling left out of the festivities, they’re also away from familiar faces and the comforts of home.
Similarly, it can be heartbreaking for caregivers and their families at home to observe a holiday while someone important to them is spending the holidays in the hospital due to health concerns.
Spending the holidays in the hospital isn't ideal, but you have the power to bring a smile to their face. Celebrating, making memories, bringing the comforts of home, and enjoying time together will make the holiday season special.
Create a Festive Atmosphere
Use decorations to brighten up the place! 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 by taping them up on the wall. A string of lights can also transform the space from boring hospital white to festive and cheerful – remember to check with hospital staff before you plug anything in.
Ask your family and friends to take part by creating and sending holiday cards and photos, or other decorative elements such as garland, 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. ‘Tis the season of giving, after all.
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 holiday 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 to see if it’s possible for the person you’re taking care of to leave the facility for a brief visit home so they can spend the holidays with the family. If they cannot leave for a short visit 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 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 season. Don’t forget to bring presents!
Participating in special programming that the hospital or long-term care facility is hosting is another great way to get into this holiday spirit — this can include Santa Claus visits, holiday performances, caroling, or religious services. Hospital and care facility holiday activities are also 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 by reaching out to them and sharing your experiences as a caregiver — knowing that they’re not alone is a powerful feeling. You can also 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 home-cooked meals for the person you know who is spending the holidays in the hospital, so that they can enjoy your comfort food over the holidays. For some fresh recipe ideas check out our video series “Elizz Eats.”
Remember to bring personal items so they have something to occupy their time on days when you’re not able to visit. A cherished toy, favourite blanket, or books 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 create good memories with them when you visit 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 memories of their hospital stay or visit to the long-term care facility. You can also record video 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 this way.
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
Preparing for the holidays can be stressful, and 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 around this time.
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 “7 Caregiving Rules for Preserving your own Well-Being” to learn how you can preserve your own well-being as you care for another person during the holidays.
However you decide to mark a special occasion 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. They may have been up all night in pain, and this was their first opportunity to get some rest.
Have you spent the holidays at the hospital with someone you care for? How did you make the holidays special? Tell us your story in the comments below!