How to bring the holidays to the nursing home

The fall and winter months are times for togetherness and cherishing holiday moments with family and friends. When a loved one is in a long-term care facility, it can make the holidays seem different or difficult to handle. These feelings can be especially hard to cope with if they are not able to come home to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. However, times like these are excellent opportunities to start new holiday traditions that will help brighten up your loved one’s day as well as yours. By bringing the holiday to your loved one, you can help them celebrate as well as still feel included in their family or social group. There are several ways you can bring the spirit of the holiday to your loved one in a nursing home that will help you and them enjoy the season and feel closer.

Bring in the trimmings

Spice up your regular visit to your loved one by bringing in some holiday spirit for them. Before your next visit, ask if they would like their room decorated for the holiday. If so, plan to bring in festive decor and themed items from home and decorate their room. Before buying decorations, it’s always best to make sure anything brought in is within your loved one’s plan of care. Also, some decorations can be potential fire hazards so check with the management team responsible for the community where they live before you bring in items. Take care not to make their surroundings too unfamiliar or difficult to navigate.

Making decorations together could also be a fun activity that will help brighten up their room and bring some enjoyment. For example, painting holiday-themed sun catchers can be an enjoyable and easy project to help engage your loved one in getting their room ready for the holidays. These colorful keepsakes can also help start a new holiday tradition since they can be re-used each year.  

Holiday meals

There’s nothing like the familiar tastes and smells of a home-cooked meal to bring memories flooding back. During the holiday season, show your loved one some love by bringing them some of their favorite foods and treats from home. You can also make them a special gift basket filled with non-perishable items such as candies, cookies or easy-to-open bottles of water or nutritional supplement drinks. If you are unsure of their dietary restrictions, check with their nursing staff to ensure food and beverages are a safe consistency and appropriate for any prescribed restrictions.

Celebrate with them

You can make your loved one’s day extra special by bringing the holiday celebration to them. Bring in family members and/or friends and share seasonal offerings such as holiday cookies, apple cider and egg nog. You can also enjoy activities such as singing Christmas carols, playing games and reflecting on Christmas memories and traditions. Rooms for celebrations can be reserved by contacting Administration or Resident Services. There are also a number of holiday-themed activities going on at the facility during December that families and friends are encouraged to participate in with their loved ones. 


Keep up the tradition of gift-giving during the holidays and bring your loved one something to brighten up their day. Steer clear of anything flammable or things that may be toxic, if ingested.   Here’s a list of gift ideas for nursing home residents:

  • Athleisure wear
  • Cards
  • Comfortable sleepwear
  • E-Cards
  • Homemade crafts
  • Hygiene giftsets
  • Lap blankets
  • Memory boxes
  • Nonslip socks and slippers
  • Perfume or cologne
  • Photos or calendars with pictures of family and friends
  • Snacks
  • Stuffed animals
  • Toiletries
  • T-shirts
  • Undergarments

Gifts to avoid:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Bars of soap
  • Candles
  • Disinfectant sprays
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Fresh fruit
  • Peanuts
  • Raw food
  • Razors
  • Talcum powder

Whether you choose to bring your loved one their favorite meal, decorate their room or buy them a cozy new blanket, remember that the greatest gift you can give them this holiday is your time.