Nursing homes get creative in battling loneliness

by Bill Bush

The holidays might be a little lonelier this year without family, depending on health and visiting restrictions of nursing homes and assisted care facilities.

Carla Back, activity director at Asbury Park in Newton, said they are still setting up window visits for people with their families and also doing video chats, trying to keep families connected with the residents.

This year, what often is a lonely season for nursing home residents, has been compounded by the presence of COVID-19, which has already created isolation and loneliness for months on end.

Visiting dogs from a Christmas past at Presbyterian Manor.

Back said that it doesn’t have to be a family member for someone to encourage their residents.

“Something that our residents thoroughly enjoyed at the start of the COVID quarantine, is we were getting cards or little pick me ups from people from the community, or even kids were coloring pictures, and they really did enjoy that,” Back said. “Just knowing that somebody’s thinking about them, just getting something in the mail today is kind of exciting.”

 

Rachel McMaster, communications director for Bluestem Communities, which in clued Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton and Schowalter Villa in Hesston, agreed that letters, cards, and coloring pictures were treasured gifts.

Also, they are encouraging people to send care packages to residents, and said anyone interested in putting one together for a resident could contact Rachel Bucklin, the community outreach coordinator, at rachelb@bluestemks.org or 316-836-4821.

PICTURE PROVIDED Carolers and students who visited Newton Presbyterian Manor in recent Christmas seasons but won’t be able to come inside this year.

Noelle Dickinson, director of marketing and senior living counselor at Newton Presbyterian Manor, said their December calendars are usually packed with concerts, parties, dinners, events, and holiday light tours, so filling the days when they can’t do the normal celebrating will take some creativity.

Dickinson said that Christmas cards, Christmas treats, children’s crafts and coloring pages and small gifts as items to cheer residents up. She suggested hand lotion, nail polish, cozy blankets, fun socks (gripper preferred), door décor, wall hangings, craft kits, books or DVDs as exciting gifts for the residents.

She added that another great gift is a small gift card to a local restaurant that has carry out. The staff at Presbyterian Manor often pick up favorite local treats for individuals who live on campus.

She said that carolers, music groups, dancers and instrumentalists are always welcome to share their talents from the exterior of the building.

“We’ve had a weekly group who call themselves the Corona Carolers come window to window to share hymns, smiles and cheer,” Dickinson said. “Be colorful and creative!”

And if you know someone who is living in a health care or assisted living residence, give them a call, Dickinson urged.

“The gift of your time and interest means the world and they may have plenty to talk about,” she said.

Another approach is to adopt a resident, which is what Halstead Health and Rehab is encourage community members to do. Amy Chappell said that anyone interested in adopting a resident could give her a call at 316-835-3535.

Back encouraged the community to also keep the staff at nursing care facilities in mind.

“We have been working a lot of hours trying to help out in any capacity that we can, working overtime ,working with a little less people than we’d like to,” Back said. “A lot of our staff here they also have kids and families and so they’re also trying to keep them safe, as well as our residents.”

PICTURE PROVIDED A photo of the carving station for a holiday meal. Some residents will not be able to host their loved ones for a special meal, or even eat together in the dining room with their friends, depending on the specific COVID situation in their buildings/facilities.