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Christmas Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Choosing Christmas gifts for someone in a nursing home can be hard. Here are some tips and suggestions to make your task easier.

Do:

  • Remember residents in nursing homes have limited space for personal belongings
  • Check with the administration about their policy on items families and friends can bring to residents
  • Permanently label any gift with their name
  • If you’re giving clothing, make sure it’s wash-and-wear, unless you’ll be responsible for the dry cleaning
  • Understand that off-site laundry is the rule in many nursing homes. Clothing can easily be lost when this happens.
  • Know that, even if someone is in a “private” room, it’s still accessible to staff and other residents, both invited and “wanderers”
  • Keep safety in mind at all times: glass or ceramic items are breakable and can cause injury
  • Find out about the administration’s policies on pointed or sharp objects such as scissors, pins or needles – including the large, plastic craft or knitting kind

Don’t:

  • Give the resident money directly, unless it’s pocket change for phone calls – deposit it in their facility’s “patient personal account”
  • Bring them food or candy if they are on special diets, UNLESS you check with the nursing staff and have their OK
  • Bring visiting pets the nursing home administration hasn’t cleared – that can be traumatic for both the animal and the resident
  • Here a Few Gift Suggestions:

    • Subscriptions to favorite magazines – many have large-print or “talking” editions available
    • Books, as long as they’re not too large and heavy, or the print isn’t too small. Talking books are good for those with very low vision.
    • Washable clothing, including sweaters, robes or socks (you think your washer is the only one that eats socks?)
    • Non-skid slippers that won’t fall off their feet
    • A washable, decorative pillow or throw without tassels or fringe for their bed or wheelchair
    • Pictures in lightweight frames for their wall
    • A calendar with dates in large heavy print and scenes that will have meaning to the resident
    • Dusting powder, moisturizing lotions or after shave in their favorite fragrances

    You are the best gift you can give, more than any other gift. If you can’t see your loved one in person because of distance, call, or write them a letter to keep them informed about what you and the family have been doing. Many residents who nursing home staff consider “non-responsive” come alive when a friend or relative visits. You represent a connection, physical, mental and emotional, to the past. Sometimes, they may not remember your name, or may confuse you with someone else, but you are still recognized at some deep level of their awareness.

    Christmas can be a very lonely time for nursing home residents. Yes, there are extra visitors and activities, but for those without families, or with families who fail to visit or write, the season is very bleak and depressing. Consider asking the nursing staff for the names of one or two residents without family who would appreciate a small gift – then ask for suggestions. Spending an extra $5 or $10 could make Christmas brighter for one or two of those residents.

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