For most Americans, the holidays are a busy time. We rush from parties to cookie exchanges to shopping excursions, barely with time to catch our breath.
For people living in nursing homes, however, this same time of year can be lonely and alienating. Busy relatives have less time to visit, and the few residents who receive a lot of attention remind the others of just how lonely they are.
At most nursing homes, the staff members try to organize holiday events for the residents, and they could use help. Become a nursing home volunteer this holiday season and bring joy to the people who need it most.
Enlist the Kids
Volunteering can be a family project. Many elderly nursing home residents miss regular contact with young people. If your children are healthy, bring them along when you volunteer. A simple conversation, a handmade card, and a song can improve a resident’s week.
Some families make these visits an intergenerational affair. When I was young, my grandmother would enlist both her children and grandchildren to visit the local nursing home. We all learned about the importance of making a difference in the community and bringing joy to others.
While shows and performances are nice, many residents long for regular, personal connections. As a nursing home volunteer, plan a weekly visit to the home. Instead of trying to visit everyone, ask the staff to put you in touch with a few residents who need more visitors. Visit those people every week and take the time to talk to them. Listen to their stories. Offer to help them with small chores around the room. Give them the human companionship they need to make their lives satisfying.
Some nursing home residents have been totally forgotten by their families. When children and grandchildren live in far-off states, they have no one to remember them during the holiday season. You, your children, and community groups can help.
Make gift baskets for residents. Avoid food items, since many people have special dietary needs. Instead, focus on decorations for the room and personal care products. High-quality soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers can lend a bit of flavor and variety for the people you visit. Choose holiday-themed decorations to brighten up personal spaces. Deliver the baskets in person — your presence is the greatest gift of all.
Even when the holidays are over, your contributions as a nursing home volunteer are still appreciated. While this is a great time of year to start new traditions and reach out to others, nursing home residents need companionship and attention year-round.
This year, start something new and beautiful with your children, and make the world a kinder, friendlier place.
Image source: Flickr