Speaking with your elders might get you thinking – what did Grandma and Grandpa get for Christmas? It might have been a piece of fruit, a wooden toy their father carved for them, a book, a dress or a pair of shoes. Take time to visit and have these conversations with older loved ones in your life. The holidays are too special of a time to be alone.
Some of our senior residents at Lakeview don’t have family, and that’s where we caregivers come into play. We’re their extended family. We share Christmas with them. We might do some kind of gift-giving or simply share an original poem.
This year, I have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. In the past, I’ve worked both days, and that’s when you really see family come in. Our residents are wide-eyed with excited and want to dress up in their best clothes. As a caregiver, that’s what you do – help fulfill their wishes. That’s what we are there for.
The kids from the daycare center in our building have also been helping residents get in the holiday spirit. They draw pictures and post them throughout the building for residents to see. We’ve had carolers and community members come in dressed like Santa and his helpers.
One group gave staff members coupons for $5 off local businesses. It wasn’t anything large, but it said, “keep up the good work” and was appreciated.
My favorite holiday tradition at Lakeview is the Elf on the Shelf who shows up in mysterious places in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Once, he was found sitting on a stuffed Santa’s lap in one of our common rooms. Another time, he ended up with a broken leg and was in bed with his leg wrapped and elevated – lucky for the Elf, he was in a care setting where there were people to take care of him.
Our residents enjoy the Elf’s adventures. There’s a little child in all of us. And that’s a good thing. Whatever age you are, there’s still a magical part of Christmas that everybody believes in.
If you have an elder family member or friend, please take the time to visit with them, even if it’s just for half an hour. We have a snack cart that goes around during the afternoon, so visitors can stop and have a cup of coffee and just chat. Or you could come play Bingo with residents. They would love that. You could even put on your Santa hat and it would brighten their day so much.
The holidays can also be a good time to check on Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa. Personally, I’m experiencing this in both directions. After work, I will visit my own parents who are now in their late 70s and early 80s. They still live at home independently, so I stop for dinner and check on them throughout the week.
It’s good to keep the conversation open. You might say, “You know, Mom and Dad, how are you doing at home? Are you able to keep your home up the way you want it to be? Or should we maybe look at something different?” There’s all kind of variety and ways to live other than at home, although I know people want to stay in their own homes as long as they can.
I hope you enjoy moments with older loved ones and have a wonderful holiday.
Mike Maday is a Care Manager at Lakeview Methodist Healthcare Center in Fairmont, Minnesota.