Most people would consider Halloween as an occasion that is only meant for children. But the truth is, Halloween is celebrated across many generations – from children, to parents, to grandparents and even great-grandparents! It’s a day where traditions and memories are created by families and friends.
Looking back, when celebrating Halloween as young children, many of us can probably remember the fun of trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, making creative costumes and being startled by scary decorative displays. As adults, we experience the joy of dressing up the little ones and helping them sort through their buckets full of candy – and sometimes sneaking away some of the goodies for ourselves! But for grandparents, the children’s excitement for Halloween can be like a time machine, often taking them back to when they took their children trick-or-treating or when their parents took them!
Halloween is so much more than just candy, skeletons or scarecrows – it’s a time of cherishing family traditions, sharing memories with neighbours and celebrating wild imaginations! At Eastern Health, Halloween is a tradition that is widely celebrated to make patients, clients and residents feel at home no matter where they are receiving care.
Take Eastern Health’s long-term care facilities for example – here, our staff has the pleasure of making holidays like Halloween special for residents. From parties, to trick-or-treating, to decorating units, Halloween has been a tradition in long-term care for many moons. As the saying goes, seeing is believing – read below the tales of four long-term care homes and how they put the happy in Halloween!
Tale One: St. Patrick’s Mercy Home
The St. Patrick’s Mercy Home in St. John’s can throw a Halloween party that is fit for any scarecrow. The facility has a long history of excellent care and compassion, and is dedicated to caring for the entire individual, respecting the sacredness of life and dignity.
The focus on quality care and compassion at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home is marked by the enduring energetic staff who contribute to make sure holidays and special occasions are celebrated throughout the year.
It’s no surprise that Halloween is an exciting time for all at “St. Pat’s.” Everybody is enthusiastic about the holiday – from parties, to decorating, to dressing up themselves, staff are successful in making Halloween special for all of the residents.
To kick off the Halloween festivities, the staff of the Recreation Therapy Department decorate units and the recreation room! Nursing staff also get involved by decorating their stations, all of which adds to the spirit of Halloween.
Even the outside of the facility gets a distinct Halloween makeover! Leaves are gathered and bagged to build the annual scarecrow. The scarecrow is surrounded by pumpkins and bales of hay, and is placed in the front entrance to greet visitors and residents – he surely is a welcoming sight to all!
At the end of October, Halloween parties are hosted on each unit for all residents, their families and friends. Many staff members dress up in costume and help residents find the perfect Halloween get-up! Live entertainment ensures an upbeat afternoon, filled with lots of singing and dancing, not to mention the recreation therapy staff who provide fun Halloween treats, such as orange mousse and Halloween inspired cookies!
Tale Two: Dr. Albert O’ Mahony Memorial Manor
Since its opening in 2009, the Dr. Albert O’ Mahony Memorial Manor in Clarenville has been home to over 40 residents.
During the last week of October every year, the Recreation Therapy Department organizes a trick-or-treat event of many flavours – an event that is equally enjoyable for the residents as it is for staff and kids! The staff is encouraged to dress in costume or Halloween colours, and residents are provided with Halloween hats and decorations to join in on the fun.
However, a sweet treat isn’t the highlight of Halloween, but rather, it is the time spent with each other! Every Halloween, young children of staff, residents’ families, local daycares and Girl Guides are invited for trick-or-treating in the manor. The excited children arrive all dressed-up and stop by each resident’s room for a trick or a treat!
Residents’ families and the Recreation Department provide treats for the seniors to hand out to the many trick-or-treaters. To make sure that all residents experience the sight of excited children at their door, nursing staff are always ready to accompany residents who may have trouble handing out treats. When all is done, the children’s bags are filled to the brim with goodies from the O’Mahony Manor!
Following trick-or-treating, a social gathering takes place where residents have the opportunity to interact with children through conversation and games. Seeing the smiles and delight that children bring to residents is worth millions! By involving local children to in the manor’s programming, residents experience meaningful, intergenerational interaction and socialization. Not only does the Halloween celebration comfort them, but it also helps residents draw from their very own childhood memories.
We’ve asked some of the manor’s residents how the manor’s annual Halloween event makes them feel. One resident said:
“I likes to see them enjoying theirselves.”
Another resident said:
“they (the children) are cute. We’ve always had a crowd! One time they’d start at 5:00 p.m. and be out until 8 or 9 o’clock!”
Another commented by saying:
“I like to see the youngsters – it reminds me of my youngsters growing up!”
Tale Three: Lions Manor Nursing Home
Last Halloween, what started out as a small door decorating competition at the Lions Manor Nursing Home in Placentia turned out into something that took on a life of its own – a unit decorating contest!
As the Halloween decorating competition deadline crept closer, it seemed as if staff came out of the woodwork to decorate the units – on their own time, after hours, on the weekends and at night! Like wildfire, the competition spread and developed into a fun-filled rivalry.
The units were judged by two members of the Placentia Town Council. In true Halloween spirit, staff wore themed costumes and brought treats for patients, visitors and residents to enjoy.
There was no doubt that residents relished the Halloween activity and excitement. Like last year, residents will have a hoot this Halloween as staff parade around in their costumes!
Tale Four: Agnes Pratt Nursing Home
Staff and residents at the Agnes Pratt Nursing Home in St. John’s make the best out of every holiday – Halloween is no exception! During October, several Halloween initiatives are led by the Therapeutic Recreation Department – these events never fail to bring out the ghoul in everyone!
Each year, a dance is held right before Halloween. This allows the little ghosts, goblins, superheroes and princesses to have a chance to visit with Nan or Pop without missing out on any trick-or-treating on Hollow’s Eve. On this night, residents, family members, volunteers, and staff dress up in Halloween costumes and dance the night away. It is truly an awaited and joyful event for all!
During the week of Halloween, the staff of the Recreation Therapy Department pick up large pumpkins from various suppliers and deliver them to all staff teams and nursing units for the facility’s annual pumpkin carving contest. The competition has grown into becoming a strategically planned, highly secretive event that staff are very passionate about! On Halloween morning, the staff set up their pumpkin creations by the main entrance where residents have the opportunity to vote for their favourite one.
Every year, pumpkin carving teams get more creative than the year before. In the afternoon on Halloween, each unit has a special social and everyone is invited to attend. The units are decorated with seasonal crafts that are hand-made by the residents, and staff dress-up in fun and silly costumes. Halloween goodies are also shared alongside tales of past Halloweens and the occasional ghost story.
The Agnes Pratt Nursing Home takes pride in being a community that celebrates and embraces life with staff, residents, families and volunteers. The staff really understand the value in keeping traditions alive and helping residence live life to the absolute fullest!
The Biggest Treat of All
Like many other holidays and celebrations, Halloween brings people together. It is times like these that we are reminded to value the moments we have with our families and friends.
The dedication of Eastern Health’s long-term care staff is something to behold – they go the extra mile and never fail to impress. Although every day may not be filled with thrilling activities, tricks, treats or costumes, they certainly are filled with the smiles and compassion from staff. At Eastern Health, the best treat of Halloween is helping, caring and supporting the wonderful families that come through our doors!
Happy Halloween to all! ■
This story was written by Danielle Bennett, therapeutic recreational specialists at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home; Sandra Walsh, word processing equipment operator at the Lions Manor Nursing Home; Stacey Duffett, therapeutic recreation specialist at Dr. Albert O’ Mahony Memorial Manor; and Kimberly Conran, recreation specialist at Agnes Pratt Nursing Home.