The way Christmas is

I have spent many Christmases in this nursing home. In fact, last year was the first time that I went out on Christmas Day since coming here to live. Most of us who are alert and oriented face the holidays with a sense of dread. It may be because we have very little control over what will happen. The facility is decorated without even asking us what we think. In the past, I have made an impact on the decorations by purchasing some things myself and making suggestions. But typically we are not consulted despite this being our home.

I understand that decorations are done for marketing purposes and also so that they will not get in the way. This facility has had a number of owners over the years and each has done the decorations differently. Some had contests with each department decorating a different part of the facility. Sometimes it was nice but many times it was terribly overdone.

I think we need to have minimal colorful, but tasteful, decorations. Most of the residents remember Christmas trees with colored lights. I also think it is very important to make sure that those decorations look tidy and together all the time that they are up. They often start to look disheveled the week before Christmas.

Last year, the resident council did suggest that we help with sorting the decorations. We thought it could be an activity. But the staff ended up doing it themselves. We did, however, choose the menus for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. Those of us who are always here on both days enjoyed that. Since some residents go out either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, there is a lot of hubbub getting them ready. Their families are usually waiting, eager to get out of here. After those residents leave, the facility becomes a bit quieter.

All through December there will be many carolers walking through the facility. God love them-they really do care about coming around and singing for us. I know I sing along, particularly when they are at my door. I think they enjoy that since some residents are unable to react to them.

Over the years we have had many aides who chose to work on Christmas because they had nowhere else to go. Other aides worked because their children were grown and they wanted the aides with younger children to be home to enjoy them. Most of us usually know which aides will be here on Christmas. They are the ones who show up, are steady, and do the job.

I have also been astounded by the generosity of some staffers to others. Some of the staff is financially unable to have a conventional Christmas for their families. Staffers work together and use the local social and church network to help employees in need. An aide told me that she gave another staffer $200 to get her family’s Christmas out of layaway, not knowing if she would ever be repaid.

This year I am going to see if we can frontload the decorating process around here. I know there are currently economic problems, but I still do not think that our unit always has to have the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I think there has to be a way to make it look better and that will definitely happen this year.

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Southeastern Ohio for the past 13 years.

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Long-Term Living 2009 December;58(12):48

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