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A Celebration to Remember

How to plan "just like home" holiday parties at your facility

By Lee Moriarty, BS/CTRS

The holidays are full of excitement and bring back many memories for all of us. It's a time of celebration, reflection and being with family. When most of us think about those memories, we can't help but reminisce on the times spent around the holiday table conversing with family and friends while feasting on a meal that we've looked forward to all year!

Now step back a minute and think about what your holiday would be like if you lived in a nursing home.

The elders who live in our homes have the same special memories that we have, but they typically aren't given the opportunity to continue to have the experiences that their memories evoke. While we might not be able to completely replicate the fond memories of their holiday meals, there are definitely steps that we can take to help make them extra special.

Plan ahead

I would recommend thinking about what you want the holiday experience at your facility to be like at least a month ahead of time. Since Thanksgiving and the December holidays are so close to each other, I would encourage you to plan simultaneously for these two events. It might seem difficult to plan big celebrations for both of these holidays, but they should each be recognized as a special event. Many homes will have a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving and then a special community celebration to bring families and loved ones together to celebrate the holidays sometime in December.

The first thing to do is develop a plan. Gather a committee to organize everything from the meal to the desserts so the entire day has special meaning. Some essential committee members might be your dietary supervisor, activities director and housekeeping supervisor as well as residents. I strongly encourage having residents on the committee since it is their home and they should have a say in how they want their holidays celebrated. The committee should provide periodic updates to the rest of the team, including other residents, so everyone feels involved in the event.

Part of the fun in planning the celebration is the preparation that occurs prior to the holiday event. There are centerpieces that need to be made, entertainment that should be planned and invitations that need to be sent out. Invitations should be sent out to family members and significant others at least a month in advance. Ask for RSVPs so that you can determine how much food you will need. If dining space is limited, have guests make reservations when they RSVP so everyone doesn't show up at the same time.

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