For some years, I worked in a Retirement Home in a position I renamed Director of Fun. Resident satisfaction was my primary goal. In that role, many family members would approach me and ask 'What should I get them for Christmas!'
It is a very valid question and certainly one that is fraught with difficulty.
Finding the perfect gift for anyone is difficult, but for those living in care homes, they may not be eligible for the customary presents.
Not what I was expecting!
While clothes are always a practical gift, checking with the person and staff to see what the person needs is best. Storage is at a premium, and another "Christmas" sweater may not be a good fit for either the person or their space.
Always consider limited space when purchasing for someone in a care home. Clutter is not only, well, messy but it can be a hazard for individuals with limited mobility or eyesight.
Food, while always enjoyable, can also be a minefield. Be aware of the person's dietary restrictions. Some foods can counteract with certain medications. Besides the no sugar for diabetics, I was surprised to learn that grapefruit, either the fruit or juice, is dangerous to people who are on blood thinners. Always check with the Director of Care or the person's medical team before tempting them with a gift they can't eat. While there are many "substitutes" for the foods we love, the taste may be less than desired!
“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa
So what can one give?
As the cliche goes, your presence is the best present. Visiting the person provides variety in their day to day lives. The human connection is key to reducing social isolation, and this will positively impact on their physical well being. Social isolation can increase depression. Linked to depression is lowered immunity, so that suffers become more vulnerable to infections. Your visits will also boost the entire community of residents as it will add something new to the conversation at dinner!
For those where the in-person visit is not possible, don't despair. Modern technology can help you reach out to the person. Contact the Home's Activity staff to arrange for Face to Face, video sharing or emailing. One of my fondest memories is watching family members in Europe singing Happy Birthday via Skype to a resident with all of us present. It was wall to wall smiles!
Old school communication like cards and letters are also great ways to reach out and reduce social isolation. Receiving that personal piece of mail on the way to the dining room always brightens the day.
Another option to reduce social isolation is to contact your local Home Care company and inquire about Social Engagement services. Many companies can provide qualified caregivers to spend time with the person in activities they enjoy.
Other gifts to purchase:
Contact the Home's hairstylist for services. Services can range from weekly wash and style to colouring or waxing.
Arrange footcare with an Advanced Footcare nurse. Footcare is an essential service that can improve mobility and comfort.
Inquire with a local spa to arrange for an In-home visit. A facial, massage or salon nail treatment is a beautiful way to pamper and raise spirits.
Look into Extra Care and Services. Facilities and Home Care companies can provide extra personal care services for residents. Discover the services and find the ones that fit the person's needs.
“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” ― Charles M. Schulz
Christmas is that time of year where we collectively attempt to thank everyone in our worlds. The constant bombardment of advertising of the latest trend for the "perfect" gift can become overwhelming, and we lose sight of how the season should make us feel. Looking over the above list, I do believe there are some items that would be appreciated by many of us.
“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” ― Peg Bracken
Before I end, I want to take a moment and write about the family and friends who are caregivers all year. These special people deserve gifts of care as well. All the services listed above are available to people outside of Care Homes. Giving the gift of respite from caring for others, freeing time from chores like housekeeping, or a spa pampering could make the world of difference to the caregiver. For these individuals, time for themselves is the most precious gift of all.
As Maya Angelou once wrote, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
So this Christmas let them feel joy and love. Give the Gift of Care.
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