Plan a safe holiday season while social distancing

Good Samaritan Society offers ways to celebrate with community during COVID-19

Good Samaritan Society resident in baseball cap and walker waves to young woman talking to him through her open car window.

The holiday season is upon us in this pandemic year, and Good Samaritan Society locations are preparing to make it a safe and meaningful time for residents and staff members.

“Our priority continues to be the well-being of our residents and staff,” said Debbra Petersen, recreation well-being consultant for the Good Samaritan Society. “This means we are making plans to creatively and safely celebrate during the holiday season.”

While some traditions have to be adapted, others will remain the same, such as holiday-themed meals, seasonal music throughout the building and holiday movies over the TV programming.

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Locations are practicing flexibility, and staff members are staying creative as they put a fun twist on activities. Doing things like decorating activity carts helps bring a sense of festivity to the residents as the carts travel in the hallway to support the needs of the residents in their rooms.

How locations can celebrate

Every location is receiving a holiday engagement guide from the operations team at the Good Samaritan Society’s National Campus. The guide includes ideas for spiritual engagement, community engagement, festive crafts, holiday activities, marketing and media resources as well as communication resources for families, community members and residents.

“We’re hoping to create a memorable time,” Petersen said. “We want to keep things positive and make this time of year the best it can be.”

An important part of making the season memorable is determining what will make it special for each resident. With the ups and downs of this year, residents may have mixed emotions.

“Staff members are there to be a listening presence and find out how residents are feeling so they can provide activities that evoke the holiday spirit,” said Petersen. “Whether it’s having a conversation with a loved one, writing a letter, watching a moving, having a prayer together or watching a prayer service, these are the types of things that might be important to a resident.”

How families can celebrate

Many holiday activities have to be adapted to allow for social distancing. Although this may mean family members aren’t able to visit a loved one in person, they’re still vital in making the holidays joyful.

“We want families to have a connection to their loved one during the holiday season,” Petersen said. “Each location may have to support visits differently. Our recommendation is to contact the respective location if there is any question.”

If the weather is mild, window visits may be a good option. Some locations may be scheduling onsite visits, while others may only be able to have virtual visits.

The Society’s online Send a Note service is also a great way for family members to reach out to their loved ones, especially extended family. Anyone can send a note to a resident at any time. Families are also encouraged to send gifts, cards and letters.

How communities can celebrate

Community members, businesses and churches are also an important part of making the holidays meaningful for residents and staff members.

“Communities can help make it a season to remember,” said Petersen. “There are many ways to let people know we’re still interconnected.”

Ideas for community involvement include:

  • Dropping off blank holiday cards for residents to fill out and send to their family and friends
  • Children sending a school craft or a card to a resident to let them know they’re thinking of them
  • Churches and other groups donating items and gift bags that staff members can personalize for residents. Suggested items:
    • calendars
    • lotion
    • slipper socks with grip
    • adult coloring books and colored pencils
    • playing cards
  • Local VFW and American Legion groups donating items and writing personalized cards or letters to residents who are veterans
  • Flower shops donating flowers or selling at a reduced price
  • Local humane societies leading a pet parade outside
  • Carolers singing candlelight carols outside
  • Groups doing sleigh rides outside

Food donations are also welcome. If you’d like to donate food, reach out to the location to see which types of donations are acceptable. Donations could include pizza, prepackaged snacks, soda or other items for staff members or a box of chocolate or a food basket for each resident.

“Community members can make that connection and truly make a difference honoring health care heroes and acknowledging residents and tenants who have been living with restrictions since March,” said Petersen. “It just takes one little thing sometimes to reset an entire mood and feeling.”

She added one thing everyone can do.

“The thing everyone can do during the holidays is to pray for each other, remember the reason for the season and focus on what the holidays are about while letting people know they matter.”

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Posted In Community, Coronavirus, Senior Services

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