6 Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Share a Smile at a Nursing Home
What is Your ‘Warm & Fuzzy’?
There is no shortage of ‘needs’, no matter where you live. Just look around. Many places ask for volunteers or donations: hospitals, libraries, shelters, thrift stores, and on and on.
One place that I have never heard a request for help is at a nursing home. They seem to be self-sufficient. Nursing homes employ many staff members to tend to the needs of the residents. Still, the patients absolutely love it when they get visitors but not all are lucky enough to have friends and family visit them.
Have I piqued your interest yet?
Now don’t just walk up to the front door, walk in and say, “Here I am”. Rather, call in advance. Ask to speak to the event coordinator and let them know what you would like to offer and when would be the best time to visit. Nursing homes are on schedules; similar to hospitals, for meals, administering medication, therapy, and in-house events.
The first four on my short list can be done solo, with a friend or with your children. The last two are best done in a group and you will see why when you get there.
1) Share Your Pet
Do you have a dog or cat that is super friendly? The residents will be absolutely giddy to pet and talk to your little buddy. Most nursing homes will not allow the residents to have their own pet live with them because of liability issues. The look on their faces when they see a ‘Rover’ or a ‘Fluffy’ is priceless.
Many times, as a person ages, their eyesight fades. Be it a novel, short story, newspaper, or bible… they are all ears. The staff will be aware of which residents would like to be read to so just ask. They may want to hear poetry or just what is in the day’s headlines. It won’t matter.
Ask them what it was like when they were growing up, their friends and their family. The elderly have a wealth of knowledge that they are more than willing to share. You may unexpectedly get a history lesson in the process.
It isn’t so much the talking or reading, as previously mentioned, but the visit… the human contact. You would be awed at the number of nursing home residents that do not get visitors.
4) Pass Out Holiday Cards
This is actually my personal favorite. There are many holidays to chose from so you can do it anytime. The cards don’t need to be fancy, just colorful and age appropriate. I sign the ones I pass out simply “You are loved”.
Sometimes I get to pass them out and other times I just give them to the greeter at the front desk and ask them to pass them out. I also insist that they deliver them out the those who do not receive visitors first.
5) Sing Songs/Hymns
This is best when performed with a group. It also needs to be coordinated well in advance so it can be added to the home’s monthly event calendar. Having a member in your group that can play guitar or piano is a big plus.
Ask a church if you can borrow some hymnals. The residents may not be able to read the small print but trust me, they know the words. Have some songs picked out ahead of time. But don’t forget to ask those in attendance if there is anything special they would like to hear or sing.
6) Pass Out Gifts
Again, this is best in a group… a church group, a classroom, or a ladies group. You can talk to the event coordinator or some of the staff to find out what is needed or would be most appreciated.
Some of what is wanted may be small blankets, lap quilts, or afghans. As we age our bodies change and the elderly get cold easier. They love receiving something that will keep them warm.
Small throw pillows are nice for propping their heads, supporting their backs when they sit, or to sit on when they are in a wheelchair.
What about door decor? Make sure to ask someone about this idea first though. I have seen many residents with holiday wreaths on their door but many doors are not personalized at all.
What Is Your Idea?
These are just some ideas to get you thinking. I’m sure you have been considering your own projects while you were reading. Now it’s time to put what you can offer into practice. Go out and share your smile at your local nursing home.
You may not get a ‘thank you’; like me, you may not want one. Just do it anonymously.
Why do I do it? I hope someone out there will do something like this when it is my turn to be in a nursing home. What about you?