Christmas in a seniors care home can be disappointing

Q: Years ago, I used to think that Christmas was the most wonderful season of the year. I would be up early Christmas morning to finish filling Christmas stockings for the children, then off to the kitchen to put together a big Christmas breakfast before we opened our presents.

Then it was back into the kitchen to slow roast a huge turkey, to serve a wonderful meal, and to sit back at the end of the day feeling most satisfied with Christmas.

It is different now. I hate it. I am in a seniors’ home (we used to call them old-folks’ homes). I am not too bad but many of the residents here struggle. At least half of them cannot walk and probably about the same struggle with their memory banks.

My son phones me for a short talk Christmas Day. That and a dried cooked turkey meal make Christmas for me.

That is it. What a disappointment.

My girls usually drop around sometime in the new year to bring me some kind of a little present but nothing more. It feels like they have more of an obligation than they do a Christmas chime. Everything is so very different. I miss my Christmas and I don’t know what I can do about it.

A: I am reasonably certain that you cannot do much to improve your Christmas mornings these days.

I cannot say that I blame you for being disappointed. For whatever reasons those who are in charge of long-term care facilities seldom budget sufficient funds to carry them into seasonal celebrations Christmas morning.

We cannot change their system but we might be able to help you capture a moment of relief from your personal distress. Let’s give it a try.

For starters, did you know that people who are able to feel grateful for whatever blessings they have tend to do better overall than do those who are bitter and disappointed? I am sure that you can find something in the day to appreciate.

Look at the phone call. That short phone call you are going to get from your son may not be much but it is a break in the day for you and you know that it is going to happen. Make sure that you enjoy those few moments talking to your boy, that you have fun anticipating the call before you are called to the phone, and that you let your son know how utterly important his call is to you. I think that it is called making a mountain out of a molehill, in this case the mountain being your gratitude for the call, the molehill being the Christmas call.

I don’t know how long you have been in the home where you are living but my guess is that you have been there long enough to know which of your fellow residents are well enough to engage in reasonable conversations. You might want to take advantage of that.

To get into reasonable conversations with those who are capable you can begin by noting how lucky all of you are to have another day to celebrate. It does not even have to be Christmas. Sometimes the morning sunrise is as inspiring as are our holiday festivals. Enjoy the sunrise with your fellow residents.

As a last thought, you are likely to find those on staff who are disappointed that they have to work on Christmas day and those who are eager to share the day with you. The latter are easier to find. They are the ones who beam when they say Merry Christmas to you early in the day. Those are the staff with whom you want to spend some time and those are the staff to whom you need to say thank you.

It is, after all, a thank you for another day, and it is that thank you, or so my studies tell us, that takes you down the path to more satisfaction, not just for Christmas but also for all days.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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