Wednesday, December 15, 2010

holiday caregiving: visiting long term care

Holidays are practically synonymous with visiting family and friends. When visiting a care facility or nursing home, physical and or cognitive challenges are part of a visit; hey it’s OK to be unfamiliar. Not everyone is a caregiver /carer.  

Bearing gifts can provide both a comfort level for the giver and anything from fun to pampering for the receiver. Just remember care facilities are not private homes so if you are not familiar with their protocols call ahead and ask.

If I were to open a gift shop for visiting … “care facility gift shop suggestions”. 

Don’t get too focused on gifts having to be objects. The best gift of all is time.

Bringing a couple cups of real hot chocolate with 'the works' could rival Santa coming down the chimney.

If there are dietary concerns, most coffee shops offer a range of sugar-free, dairy-free, etc options to go. Depending on abilities, you may need to transfer to a sippy cup but still you’ve done good!

Bring something to facilitate interaction, for example pictures, holiday cards, or a game. Props can only help when memory loss or cognitive impairment might challenge conversation alone.

Family pets always get left out of holiday activities; if you own a sociable pet bring them along. Call first, but most facilities welcome pet visitors. Don’t be offended if your pet gets more attention than you.

An outing could be a treasured gift. Towns small and large are decorated for the holidays; many communities have drive through illuminated displays. If you are unfamiliar with transferring someone to a passenger vehicle, just ask. Facilities are glad to help you if you can be patient. … or you can always splurge and rent a wheelchair van or hire an accessible taxi for a couple hours.
From the comedy of George Burns and Gracie Allen … Gracie comes home from the hospital after visiting a sick friend.
(George) 'Where did you get the flowers?'
(Gracie) 'I went to visit Mable.'
(George) 'Yeah, so?'
(Gracie) 'WELL, you told me to take her flowers!' 
Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. Very timely advice, Patrick. I went back and looked at your list of gift suggestions too; all were great. I had thought socks would be good gift for hubby's mom this year (assisted living) but he didn't take my suggestion, LOL.

    you summed it up really well too; the gift of time is what most in care facilities want. (and thus that is why I am moving south to be closer to hubby's family so he can give them that gift)


  2. Wonderful tips and I love the best gift is time. Your so right.

  3. Thanks, Patrick, for the advice. My mother's nursing home is very helpful. As far as gifts, I make baskets of toiletries -- yes they already have them, but they can be institutional. I try to find my mother's favorites in talc, liquid soap, shower gel, moisturizer, toothbrushes/toothpaste... then I add some nice socks and it's a gift she can use. I repeat it for all holidays.


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