While the holidays look different this year for residents, staff and families in senior care, there are still plenty of ways to spread cheer around the community. And so far I’ve seen no shortage of great ideas from the communities across the country and those I work with across my various activity professional associations.
Here are a handful of the innovative and unique ideas I have seen so far. I hope you can implement a few of them at your community to lift spirits during this difficult time.*
10 Creative Ideas To Boost Morale & Make Staff Merry
- Ask team members to wear holiday swag to work. You could even give them holiday-themed masks or special pins.
- Put your own spin on the traditional Advent calendar and give staff members that go above and beyond a prize each day during the month of December.
- Encourage community members to donate essential items for your staff to create a food pantry where they can conveniently grab what they need before they head home after a long shift.
- Ask residents and family members to write thank-you notes for all they have done to provide care this year.
- Send each team member home with a holiday ham to enjoy with their family.
- Hire a chaplain or third-party resource to collect staff feedback and relay it to management, who are busier than usual during this time.
- Offer gift certificates for gas or Uber credits to ensure employees are able to make it to work without the extra hassle.
- Regularly remind staff of the mental health resources that are available to them either through your organization or the local community.
- Hold impromptu dance parties to popular holiday tunes throughout the day.
- In lieu of a seasonal team gathering, hold a virtual event where you play holiday games. You can even have treats delivered to each team member’s home for them to enjoy together during the party.
10 Creative Ideas To Get Residents In The Holiday Spirit
- Have residents’ family members decorate their cars for the holidays and have them drive by the community parade-style.
- Create shielded environments for residents and families to safely visit. One community even created a risk-free device that allowed residents to hug their loved ones.
- Work with residents to create items to send to home to loved ones such as homemade greeting cards, artwork, keepsakes and legacy books.
- Help residents connect virtually with family and friends via iPads or tablets you have on hand at the community. Encourage them to attend their family’s holiday celebration this way, providing a device to do so if they do not have their own.
- Organize a group of carolers outside the community to sing at residents’ windows.
- Encourage family members to send gifts and care packages with residents’ favorite foods.
- Ask local community members to send holiday messages via email or video.
- Help residents decorate their rooms and doors with holiday décor.
- For those residents celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, arrange for them to attend a virtual spiritual gathering or air a local service on TV.
- Cook a special meal for residents, like a ham dinner, and allow them to eat together at a safe social distance.
5 Creative Ideas For Connecting Residents & Staff
- Have each department work together to create “themed floats” to parade through the halls, past residents' rooms.
- Staff can collect holiday and cultural traditions from residents and then implement into the community. For example, the German tradition of hanging a pickle on the Christmas Tree, where the first person to find the pickle gets a surprise!
- Decorate Christmas trees and other holiday decor items around the community with photos from activities that included staff and residents.
- Use the 12 days of Christmas as inspiration to make the community festive as Christmas approaches.
- Arrange a Secret Santa gift exchange, where each resident receives something from a staff member.
*As a reminder, the CDC and CMS have put out recommendations for holiday gatherings to help communities remain diligent on social distancing, the use of face masks and quarantining residents and staff showing symptoms of the virus. Also, be sure to adhere to the guidelines and best practices put forth by your local government officials.