What does christmas look like in LTC?

Honestly, the inglorious truth is that it’s just another day, mostly like any other. Especially for those who are scheduled to work.

Granted, the Life Enrichment department (AKA: recreational therapy and/or volunteer group) make concerted efforts to liven the spirits of everyone around with festive cheer, decorations and gifts for every resident (especially thoughtful). But for their efforts, most residents would likely never realize it was Christmas – such is the difficulty with remaining oriented to the month, let alone the date (especially when it’s a green Christmas). I’ve said it before, but it is with good reason that those in LE are often the most popular staff among the residents; after all, they are the ones tasked with actually spending time with them for them and not for task-care oriented and time-sensitive objectives.

A busy day

Covid and outbreaks aside, generally speaking, it is typically a busy day simply on account of the high number of visitors popping in. Most visits are warmly received, naturally, but the staff are keenly aware of those family visits that occur all too infrequently – and out of a sense of yearly obligation rather than out of genuine desire. Sadder still, are those residents who fail to receive any attention during the holidays – by mail, phone or in-person visit. Indeed, the holidays never fail to be a divisive time; for most, it can be joyous – for the few, it can be especially lonely and depressing.

To this last point, we need to be reminded that life never stops. For example, death never takes a break and it isn’t uncommon for a resident to be informed that one of their adult children has passed away. How do you handle that as a caregiver? On Christmas?

Some trends and common risks to avoid – please!

Some families who visit do so in order to pick up their residents in order to take them home for a meal – a very nice, well-intended and appreciated gesture. Unfortunately, a couple of complications can occur. First, if there isn’t clear communication between who-is-leaving-when-and-for-how long, there is a real risk that scheduled medications are missed. Second, it can be especially stressful (and awkward!) for the care team to feel like ‘they’ve lost a resident’ (typically known in healthcare parlance as a Code Yellow). 


Now, losing a slow-moving person may seem funny on the face of it but, in practice, particularly if there’s a storm outside, can quickly escalate – and it can happen all too easily when so many people are passing through the main entrance; people who aren’t escorted or who ought not leave at all can – and have – ‘escaped’. It’s serious and we’ve been fortunate to find and return people quickly enough to have avoided serious consequences, even if as much by luck than judgment.

Another trend we see, and it is understandable given the nature of the holidays, is for people to over-indulge. Residents returning drunk/high (and obnoxious!) aside, others must be watched for concern of having aspirated food that was not given in the appropriate texture/thickness and, in the case of diabetics, dangerously high levels of blood sugar. If you don’t believe me, stop reading and look up diabetic ketoacidosis on the google machine. Go on. I’ll wait.

Never mind.

I’m sorry if this has put a damper on your otherwise jolly holiday mood; however, it’s best you start to see things the way a healthcare provider does when they’re working. On Christmas. For 8, 12 or 16 hours.

By all means, come visit but please don’t [over] feed your resident [inappropriately], or remove them from the home without checking in first. It’s honestly safer that way for everyone involved. 

Thanks so much.



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