Nursing Homes at the Holidays: No More Ugly Snowflakes, Please!

OK, so with fall here, winter isn’t far behind. So it gets me remembering the many years decorating for the Holidays in my past life in Recreation Therapy… and so, on to my soap box for the day… and this is a shout out to all of you who work with the elderly in nursing homes, as I had the privilege to do for 39 years…..

PLEASE DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT decorate with those

Bad snowflake... no sugarplums!:

Exhibit 1:  Some Seriously Scary Snowflakes 

ugly poor excuses for snowflakes that recreation staff see fit to “deck the halls”, and usually the windows, with.  It’s enough to drive a visually oriented senior [such as myself] to popping Haldol.

And don’t you CTRS’s out there be smirking like you “would never” … I’ve seen snowflakes by staff with masters degrees that are enough to give me the willies…..

And there’s always the one in the bunch using the excuse ‘aw, but isn’t it sweet Mrs. So and So with dementia made that. I just had to display it in the dining room!‘. No it’s not sweet, -it’s castrating. Mrs. So and So may not remember she made the butt ugly snowflake, but it stands in testimony to how far she’s declined… to her, in lucid moments, and to her family when they visit.

To paraphrase my Psychology of Perception professor, Hannes Beckmann [formerly of the snowflake-1Bauhaus], a harmoniously constructed snowflake is like a graceful ballerina, standing on it’s toes.  [OK, so he was talking about a well constructed heart … same difference].

There are a zillion online tutorials to teach you how to make elegant snowflakes. . If you’re artistically challenged, get some help NOW and practice up, because the holidays will be here before you know it.

Even if you think you got this covered, GET SOME HELP!!!! Err on the side of caution here… overestimating your skills can cause unexpected consequences.

Beauty and harmony in our environment, or the lack of it affects mood. Mood effects behavior. And a lot of the distressing behaviors we see [or fail to notice] in individuals with dementia are caused by environmental stressors, including discord, clutter, and noise – both auditory and VISUAL, …including butt ugly snowflakes.

A side word about behaviors we see and those we don’t… It’s easy to identify a behavior and trace it back to the behavioral trigger when the behavior is overt. Someone pitching a fit in response to increased anxiety is hard to miss. But some behaviors are a lot more subtle, and hard to spot – like withdrawal. And without intervention, withdrawal can cause serious harm. It artificially reduces functional ability and hastens decline.

So, let’s all commit to reducing toxic visuals in the environment this holiday season, remembering that our nursing home residents will have to live with, and possibly suffer at the effect of, our decorating faux pas.

The idea here is that we’ve got an opportunity to spread some comfort and joy and even wonder, with some harmonious sophisticated seasonal decorations. All it takes is a commitment to get some basic skills on board. – Like how to make a fine looking snowflake.  There’s got to be over a hundred quick you tube tutorials that will have you making Martha Stewart grade snowflakes in no time.

And while you’re at it, make sure to watch at least a five tutorials on how to decorate a tree. There are a bunch of simple tricks for creating a harmonious lush looking Christmas tree.

So this holiday season, if you work in long term care, remember part of respecting our elders is committing to ensure that we have the skills to give them our best, down to the little touches – like a well crafted snowflake.

 

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