Nurturing Love Across the Miles: Thanksgiving for Loved Ones in Nursing Homes

November 21, 2023

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, reflection, and expressing love for those who hold a special place in our hearts. However, when our loved ones reside in nursing homes or assisted living communities, the distance can make the holiday season bittersweet. Like any long distance relationship, it takes effort and support to keep the relationship healthy and thriving. When it comes to you and your loved one in long term care, the same rules apply. 

In a recent study, approximately 8 percent of survey respondents stated that they did not visit a relative because their facility was too far away. Nowadays, you don’t have to drive the distance to continue having a solid relationship with your loved one. Despite physical separation, meaningful ways exist to bridge the gap and ensure loved ones in nursing homes feel cherished and connected during Thanksgiving.

Virtual Thanksgiving Celebrations
In an age of technology, distance doesn’t have to mean disconnection. Organize a virtual Thanksgiving celebration using video calls or online platforms. Share the joy of the holiday by including your loved one in the family gathering, allowing them to witness the festivities and participate in the conversation. This virtual presence can go a long way in making them feel included and loved.

Today, calling people over Facetime, Zoom, and other face-to-face phone calls can be easier than meeting in person. Applications like Zoom have been found to help senior citizens socialize and, according to a recent study, help older people avoid dementia and improve cognitive function. 

Getting your loved one comfortable enough to transition to face-to-face phone calls can be difficult. Try calling their facility to check if a staff member can walk them through the process. You can also connect with the facility to see if any upcoming events on technology and the Internet are approaching. If you’d like to teach your loved one how to use Zoom, you can share this step-by-step guide that you can walk through with them. 

Plan a Visit with Your Loved One

Whether you live 12 minutes or 12 hours away, visiting your loved one is important. Make an effort to plan a visit with them that not only includes some fun activities but also allows some quality, catch up time. Possible activities and fun things to do include: 

  • Listen to music together
  • Get some fresh air by going outside
  • Take them on short outings
  • Read a book together 
  • Watch a movie or TV show

Nursing homes and assisted living communities also regularly offer social engagements and enriching activities, like exercise or art classes. Join them in these facility wide events! 

Thoughtful Care Packages:
Create a personalized care package that reflects the spirit of Thanksgiving. Include their favorite pampering products, a cozy blanket, and a photo album filled with family memories. You can also check with staff at the long term care facility to get ideas on what to include. Adding a handwritten note or a recorded message can make the care package even more unique, creating a tangible connection between you and your loved one.

Engage your loved one in creative and enjoyable activities that can be done from a distance. Share a craft project or create a scrapbook together, incorporating pictures and mementos that celebrate your family’s Thanksgiving traditions. This collaborative effort fosters a sense of togetherness and shared experiences despite the physical separation.

While physical distance may pose challenges, the emotional bond with our loved ones transcends geographical boundaries. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to reinforce these connections, even when our elderly loved ones live in nursing homes or assisted living communities. By embracing virtual celebrations, sending heartfelt letters and care packages, and involving them in shared activities, we can make sure our loved ones feel the love and warmth of the holiday season, no matter how far apart we may be.