Remember our seniors this season

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Seniors play bingo at the Donald E. Green Active Adult Center in December 2019. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Christmas is only two weeks away, and for residents in assisted living and nursing homes, this year will be very different as the lockdown on long-term care facilities due to COVID-19 continues. Administrators, staff and caregivers within these facilities have become their family and do their best to keep their residents active, engaged and healthy.

These facilities had to lock their doors to visitors in March, and although porch visits and other creative means of interaction with family and friends were implemented, recent spikes in COVID cases in Alabama and nationwide have resulted in added precautions.

What can the community do to help spread Christmas cheer to those who will not be able to be with family this year? Here are a few ideas!

Christmas cards and letters

Pen pal programs have become a new source of correspondence between residents and the community since the pandemic began. Everyone loves getting a handwritten letter from someone who has been thinking of them. This is a great community service activity for school and church groups or any individual or organization.

If you don’t have a specific pen pal, that’s OK. A batch of letters or cards can be delivered to a facility and distributed among its residents. Besides being the bright spot in a senior’s day, this simple act of kindness could be the spirit boost we could all use.

Car parades

In the beginning of the pandemic, car parades became an innovative way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones. They also became a way to show love, support and smiles to those in long-term care facilities. As the weather got cooler the car parades seemed to fade away. They don’t have to stop!

USA Healthcare-Alabama LLC Community Relations Director Stephanie Coleman suggested that car parades can continue. “Car parades are always successful. Even if it’s cold, the residents can gather at their windows to see the car decorations and signs.”

A festive Christmas car parade would certainly bring some cheer to loved ones.

Good old-fashioned caroling

Children visiting nursing homes to sing Christmas carols and holiday favorites is a long tradition. This year doesn’t have to be different, maybe just a little colder. Families, choirs or any group searching for a place to sing for others should consider nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Contact the facility and arrange a time to sing outside the entrance or windows. The sights and sounds of carolers would be a heartwarming way to show love and bring Christmas cheer.

Goody boxes and prizes

Bingo and penny auctions continue to be popular pastimes for seniors, and now, more than ever, a much needed fun activity. Personal hygiene items and small gifts and activities would make these games much more fun and help hard-working facility staff. A few suggested items include hand sanitizer, tissues, socks with grips, shampoo, snacks, coloring books and activity/puzzle books.

Those working in these facilities could use a little extra TLC, too. They have become the new family to those they care for in the absence of their actual families. Besides giving expert care, the staffs have continued to come up with creative activities and ideas to keep residents’ morale up during these difficult times. Taking care of the caregivers is a must.

One way to let them know their hard work is appreciated is through gift cards for a delicious lunch. The community sponsoring meals is a great way to say thank you and Merry Christmas!

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