The holidays are a time of year when many families plan special gatherings, spoil one another with gifts and simply cherish time together.
When your parent is in a long term care facility, your holiday celebrations may take a different shape and form, but can still be a wonderful opportunity to create memories and joyful time together.
Some children struggle to find the appropriate gift for a loved one who is in care, may be ill or has limited space in a skilled nursing room. And even though your parent may not want a gift, you have a desire to show your love and appreciation for him or her during this time of year.
Gifts for Your Parent in Nursing Home Care
Your gift doesn’t need to be costly or complicated. Oftentimes, simple gifts from the heart mean the most. Use or build on these gift ideas for seniors in care:
- A talking picture frame or digital picture frame. Include pictures of the kids and grandkids. If it’s a talking frame, have the grandchildren record “I love you grandpa,” or sing a verse of a special song, such as “You Are My Sunshine.”
- A special outing or visit by the grandchildren. Consider singing Christmas carols and enjoying a meal together.
- Personalize something he or she loves. It can be something small, such as a puzzle, book, card game or even a silly game, with a special message on the box, inside the cover or on an attached card. It will help remind your parent that you are there in love, even when you can’t be there.
- A basket of favorite things to set next to the bed or on the nightstand. This could include those favorite chocolate mints, lip moisturizer, a trinket that reminds him or her of a special memory, and a book and homemade bookmark.
Five Christmas Gift Ideas Perfect for Veterans
Along with sharing in the Christmas spirit, the holidays are another great opportunity to show your pride and respect for your parent serving our country. Give a gift that says both “I love you” and “thank you for your service” this holiday.
- Create a picture album or memorabilia box. Include items your parent has from his or her time of service. Ask your parent to share stories as you look through the items.
- Document your parent’s service, pictures and stories in a special journal. Add in stories and pictures from any other family members who have served. Let your father or mother know this will be shared with family as a way to honor his/her example and contribution to our country.
- Make a patriotic craft. Have the grandchildren create patriotic arts and crafts.
- Decorate a small Christmas tree for your parent’s room in red, white and blue. (Choose an artificial tree for safety or first ask if live trees are permitted!)
- Adopt a Military Family to support in your parent’s name. Check your local Veterans’ organization for information on specific programs, such as Operation Christmas Spirit, or on how you can support a military family throughout the entire year. Keep your parent posted on how the family is doing.
When the Holidays are Difficult for Veterans
For some families, the holidays become even more of a challenge when they know their veteran parent struggles this time each year.
It is not uncommon for veterans who served in combat during the holidays to feel stressed or become depressed this time of year. It’s often even more difficult when everyone else is feeling joyful.
Understand that even one traumatic event occurring on or near a holiday can change that holiday forever. Sometimes the feelings that are triggered by a date or “anniversary” of a traumatic event are so strong that it easier to avoid the date and any events around it. Some veterans even feel ashamed that they continue to feel this way years after an event, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD points out.
Be understanding of the pain your parent may be feeling and how this time of year affects him or her emotionally.
Tips to Help Your Veteran Parent Through the Holidays
Take time during the holidays and throughout the winter months to specifically remind your parent of these things:
- Your unconditional love.
- Your appreciation for his or her service and dedication to our country.
- That you will listen if he or she wants to talk, and if not, you understand.
Plan a simple family activity together that makes the holiday feel like any other special day versus all the commotion that sometimes comes with Christmas. Ask your parent what he or she would most enjoy doing together on that day.
Reach Out to Specialists for Support
Don’t be afraid to reach out to specialists who can provide your family guidance and support, such as our specially-trained nursing home staff here at Maine Veterans’ Homes.
We understand the physical, mental and emotional strengths and challenges of veterans and realize they are proud individuals who were trained to overcome obstacles and never give up.
Our staff at Maine Veterans’ Homes are here to support our veterans and their families. We are more than a long term care center, we are committed 24/7 to Maine’s veterans and their families.
Maine Veterans’ Homes is an independent nonprofit organization with six locations throughout Maine, each welcoming our honored veterans. We encourage families and veterans to visit any or all of our locations and get to know us. Contact Maine Veterans’ Homes today. 800-278-9494.