Making The Holidays Special In Long-Term Care

By Courtney Lee, MS, RDN, CLT, CFCS

Holidays bring joy to many with a time for family, friends, traditions, and fond memories of the previous years. For residents in long-term care, the holidays are often just another reminder that they are removed from their former communities and friends, family members are deceased, they are unable to participate in those highly valued traditions, and they can’t recall all the details in those precious memories.

Food Matters

As a registered dietitian in long-term care, you have a unique opportunity to help make the holidays extra special for your long-term care residents. Food means so many things to different people, but something it is to all of us is personal. Long-term care residents exercise a lot of control over their food in a facility with their meal times, preferences, dining locations, and actual amount of food consumed.

Food is one of the few things residents still have control over when they live in a long-term care facility when other choices are gone. At times, this freedom with food choices can keep the registered dietitian and food service team very busy trying to meet the frequently updated preferences. But during the holidays, the freedom residents have with their food means that food and meals provide significant leverage to make or break a resident’s holiday.

How you can make the holidays special for long-term care residents

Listen. Find out what is important to your residents. You may not be able to recreate all of their favorite holiday traditions, but you can listen. Simply listening and engaging in their story validates whatever they may be thinking and feeling.

Provide an opportunity to contact family members. In some long-term care facilities, visitors won’t be able to make in-person visits due to COVID-19 restrictions. So make arrangements for a phone or video chat. Or encourage family members to mail cards with photos.

Help residents make gifts or cards. Supply inexpensive decorations and join your residents in making paper plate snowmen, snowflakes, menorahs, holiday cards, and more. You could even help to organize a facility-wide card exchange.

Plan a resident’s choice holiday meal. This is a wonderful way to engage residents and give them something new to look forward to. Even if they can’t plan their traditional meal or gathering at home, they can help plan a meal for the facility.

Make New Year’s resolutions. We all have hopes and goals for the new year, so give your residents something special to look forward to. Help them brainstorm resolutions like, winning a bingo championship, meeting a new grandchild, or spending more time outdoors.

Get the community and/or family members involved. The more the merrier! If you know something is special to a resident, let a family member know and see what you can do together to make it happen! Ask for help from the community and outside organizations, if you need to.

Courtney Lee Headshot

Courtney Lee, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT, CFCS consults locally with Dietitians On Demand and also has a virtual private practice, Kitchen Nutrition, LLC. Courtney enjoys equipping dietitians and dietetic interns with the tools they need for professional success so they don’t have to learn the hard way. Courtney enjoys baking, running, and hosting friends and family in her home.
Find her on Instagram @yourkitchennutrition.

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