Will Your Parents’ Senior Community Make Will Your Parents' Senior Community Make Birthdays and Holidays Special?Birthdays and Holidays Special?

Holidays and birthdays can be cause for joy–or guilt, if you can’t join your parents at their senior community. You can make everyone happier if you ask a few important questions about celebrations when you’re choosing a community for your parents. When you know what each community offers and what your parents prefer, you can pick a place where birthdays and holidays are special, even when you can’t be there in person.

How does the community celebrate?

Some assisted living communities and nursing homes spell out their holiday celebration plans on their websites. One example is PeachTree Place in West Haven, Utah, which has a page on its site filled with descriptions and photos of holiday décor and routines so families know what to expect. Other communities post details of each month’s birthday and holiday events in their monthly activities calendar. You may be able to see the calendar online, or you can pick up a copy when you visit.

Some communities have the staff and resources to throw a little party for each resident on his or her special day. Others host larger monthly celebrations to acknowledge all residents whose birthdays fall in that month. Are your parents the type who prefer to party with a group, or would they rather have the spotlight to themselves on their birthday?

Are there field trips to local restaurants for holiday and birthday dinners and for holiday events such as concerts and light displays? Can the activities director work with you to customize birthday or holiday events for your parents? For example, if work or distance prevent you from visiting your parents on their birthdays, can a staffer help them set up a FaceTime or Skype video chat with you on their phone?

What do residents and families say about the community’s celebrations?

If you’re able to strike up conversations with visitors and residents at the homes you visit, you can ask them what they like about holidays and birthdays there. You can look at online reviews for each place you’re considering to see if anyone mentions parties and holidays. Finally, a quick Google search may turn up a glowing, if indirect, recommendation. For example, the staffers and residents at the Hebrew Home for the Aged (now part of RiverPlace Health in New York), were the heroes of a lovely holiday essay in the New York Times a few years ago.

How does the facility honor residents without family or friends?

The oldest seniors often outlive friends and family members, which can lead to lonely holidays and birthdays. A true test of a senior community’s holiday spirit is seeing how staffers and residents mark special days for solo seniors. In 2015, one UK nursing home asked BBC Radio to share a request for birthday cards for a 99-year old resident who was facing the prospect of turning 100 without family or friends nearby. Cards started pouring in immediately, along with offers of birthday treats and entertainment.

When you’re dealing with insurance and contracts, asking questions about cake and balloons may feel like small stuff, but it will mean a lot to your parents to live in a community that makes special days truly special. Find more holiday ideas for seniors, caregivers, and family on the SeniorAdvisor.com blog and SeniorAdvisor Pinterest page.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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