The holiday season, more than any time of year, helps us collectively mark the passage of time.
It is a chance for reflection and celebration, an opportunity to bridge generational and geographical gaps while gathering with the ones we hold dear.
At local assisted living and long-term care facilities, ensuring residents have a full, meaningful holiday experience is an essential part of the mission for staffers.
“To make them happy, those moments… It’s a lot to do with traditions,” said Loraine DiLorenzo, activities director at Johnston’s Cherry Hill Manor. “They do it with 100 percent of their hearts, the people who work here.”
Julie Fox, senior director of business development for Cherry Hill Manor and Evergreen Nursing & Rehabilitation in East Providence, echoed DiLorenzo’s sentiment. She noted the special emphasis placed on Italian culture during Cherry Hill’s holiday events, given the heritage of many residents. Preparing and serving Italian cookie trays, for example, is a staple of the season.
“It just brings that local flavor and tradition into the long-term care setting,” she said.
Amber Wolf, activities director at All American Assisted Living in Warwick, said her facility includes traditional assisted living space as well as “Rose Lane,” which serves residents with memory-loss issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. She mainly handles the traditional assisted living side of the operation, while Elisabeth Lamantia oversees the Rose Lane programming.
Like her counterparts at other assisted living communities, Wolf said family is a primary focus during the holidays.
“Obviously, family is very important to our residents, to our staff … Since we see the residents on a daily basis, they become our extended family,” she said.
DiLorenzo said Cherry Hill Manor strives to provide a range of holiday offerings for residents and families. The focus, she said, is on providing connections with the “sensory” aspects of the season – the aroma of holiday dishes, for example, or the joy of decorating.
Around Thanksgiving, there are craft and cooking programs, as well as a bake sale and raffles in which residents participate. On the holiday itself, highlights of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are shown on a large television – a chance to catch the iconic procession for those who might be busy getting ready for the day as it airs live.
Residents who remain at the facility have the option of gathering with family members in private spaces or joining other members of the community for a dinner in the main dining room.
“Those residents who don’t have family, they go in there and share [the day] together as a family,” she said.
For Christmas, DiLorenzo said residents get “really engaged” in Cherry Hill Manor’s annual Christmas Bazaar by making crafts and manning tables.