Boredom and loneliness are common complaints made by elderly who lived in skilled care facilities. Instead of always bring plants or flowers, which provide visual pleasure to nursing home residents, but cannot occupy their time, bring other gifts that they can enjoy after you have left. Here are some ideas:
- A magazine, Guidepost or Reader’s Digest that they can read or use to reminisce with others.
- Foreign coins or postcards of places they have visited in years past.
- Regular or large-print books (especially if there are visual limitations) or audio books they can listen to on their own.
- A magnifying glass to help with small print items.
- A portable radio so they can listen to a favorite station or the local news.
- A small handheld computer game such as Yahtzee, Solitare, etc.
- Books with word puzzles, Suduko or word circles.
- Bring anecdotes, stories or cartoons clipped from newpapers or magazines to make them happy or smile.
- Stationery or note cards to keep in touch with friends.
- Padded sheepskins cover for their wheelchair or bed to make life a little more comfortable.
- Share photographs of your family, your vacation, your house, or garden.
- Ask children to draw a picture or write a story especially for your loved ones and bring this as a surprise.
- Bring AND send cards and decorations on special holidays to brighten their room.
- Personalized cards for birthdays, Christmas, or just Thing of You — personally delivered.
- Pretty little doo-dads for ladies.
- Hats. Ladies and men like them.
- Stuffed animals. You’d be surprised at the people who end up loving them.
- Videos and DVDs on topics of specific interest to a resident.
The best gift we can give to people in the nursing home is our time. This is more important than anything else. The following ideas involve your time, which is more important than anything else to nursing home residents.
- Games. Play cards, hangman, tic-tac-toe, checkers, even charades… whatever games the person likes.
- Reading. Those who cannot see to read, people love to be read to.
- Twenty questions. Arm yourself with questions to ask and give the person lots of time to talk. Questions about his or her experiences are always winners.
- Grooming. Ladies like to have their nails done. Light massages are nice. Just slowly brushing someone’s hair is much-needed attention and physical contact.
- Music. If you play an instrument, try doing it room by room for those who are room-bound. Or take a group to sing familiar songs to the residents.
- Playing ball. Men especially love tossing a ball back and forth.
- Rides. In nice weather, rides outside in wheelchairs. In poor weather, do it inside. Stop to talk to others, look at and talk about bulletin boards and decorations, read menus, etc.
- Pet visits. Check the care facility’s policy, but many residents just love visits from dogs, cats, rabbits, even ferrets.
- Art. Take a child-size easel on wheels and some water paints. Anyone who can hold a paintbrush can create something.
- Games. See what sort of games and equipment the activity director has. They often have stuff they’ve forgotten about that you can put to use.
Finally, one thing residents eat up is just being around other people having normal conversations. Invite a few people at once and just hang out in rooms gabbing. The resident may not participate but they’ll still love it. It makes them feel connected to the real world and included among regular people.
Contact Sherri Halsell, Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service Clay County agent at (940) 538-5042 for more information.