Our New Home
With the holiday season upon us, it is important to stop and take a moment to reflect and appreciate those things that are truly important in our lives. As a therapeutic recreation specialist in long-term care, for me, it also means bringing the magic of the holidays to our residents.
It is an exciting and joyous time of year as we fondly remember years past, and the wonderful memories we have shared with residents and families, colleagues and friends in long-term care. This holiday season is extra special as we begin to create holiday memories in our new home that will last a lifetime.
Many of you may know that on September 15, 2016, residents and staff of the Interfaith Citizens’ Home, Pentecostal Senior Citizens’ Home and Harbour Lodge Nursing Home began the highly anticipated relocation to our new facility, Carbonear Long-Term Care… Our new Home.
Traditions Past and Future
As we transitioned to our new home, we began to establish a new culture, and a new identity. With three months to go until the holiday season, therapeutic recreation staff quickly devised and implemented a plan. Traditionally, December is a busy month in long-term care. There are quite a few activities that residents look forward to each and every year.
Once we moved into our new home and residents began to settle in, therapeutic recreation’s main focus was developing a plan that would ensure a festive season for our residents. Consequently, we determined that the best way to accomplish this would be to adopt the most successful seasonal programming ideas from our respective facilities. In talking to our residents, we learned that there are several Christmas activities they loved, and which we are bringing forward to our new home:
- “I want to go to the Christmas party and get a gift from Santa Claus.”
- “I loved the sing-songs. We had two or three a week during December.”
- “I love to hang ornaments on the big tree, just like when we were children.”
- “I hope I still get a Christmas card from the staff. They always gave us cards”
Our First Christmas
This season, there will be a variety of long standing traditions from our former sites. Tree trimming parties will be hosted and residents will get an opportunity to decorate their unit’s Christmas tree. Residents will also celebrate the holidays by attending unit parties, organized through therapeutic recreation, which will include musical entertainment, tasty treats from our dietary department and a visit from Santa Claus who will leave behind gifts that will be kindly distributed by nursing staff on December 25th.
Residents can also expect to wake up that morning to a filled Christmas stocking which was graciously donated by a local volunteer organization. Throughout the holiday season, residents will also participate in the much loved tradition of carol sing-a-longs that will be hosted by our many volunteer musical groups.
In addition to our own therapeutic activities during this time of year, our respective facilities also receive a large number of requests from outside groups requesting a time to visit our residents during the holiday season.
All of these programs and activities have therapeutic value that our residents look forward to and enjoy. Trimming a tree, listening to and singing carols, receiving a visit from Santa Claus are things these residents associate with this time of year, regardless of age. These seasonal initiatives can bring back a flood of memories. Reminiscence therapy plays an important role in all of our programing, with the holidays being one of the most significant celebrations of the year.
Staff Come Together
This time of year can also sometimes be a sad and lonely time for many people in our society, especially our aging population in long-term care. For some residents, this might be their first Christmas away from their own home. They are separated from their friends and family, from their own routines.
I am reminded of a resident who was an only child and her parents passed away many years ago. This particular resident had come from a small community and did not have any extended family. She often referred to the Home’s staff as her family. Staff from all departments would always make an extra effort to ensure that the holiday season was special for her. This is a common occurrence for staff in long-term care. Staff traditionally come together to help alleviate the stressors residents may experience this time of year.
Hopes for Future
Recreation Development Specialist Krista Doyle, a new employee in long-term care, sees that the involvement of family and friends can often enhance the success of therapeutic recreation programming. Her hopes for the new year is that our amazing volunteer base will continue to grow. Volunteers are invaluable to therapeutic recreation programming, especially during the holiday season.
It is important to note the kindness, compassion and energy of all facility staff during this busy month. As employees in long-term care, we take pride in our work within Eastern Health. Collectively, it is our intention to continue to shape our own customs and practices with each coming year. As these new traditions take on a special meaning for Carbonear long-care residents, they will not completely replace the deep-rooted treasured memories from our former facilities but complement them so that together we can promote and maintain a homelike atmosphere for all our residents. ■
This story was written by Paul Sheppard and Krista Doyle, therapeutic recreation specialists at Eastern Health’s Carbonear Long Term Care Facility