A slice of homemade caramel cake reminded Dorothy Newman of being home for Christmas Day.
A resident of Golden Living Augusta, Newman couldn’t leave the skilled nursing facility where she receives 24-hour care. Instead, her daughter, Betty Carter, brought the Christmas Day celebration to her.
“She’s my mother and we miss her at the family table now,” Carter said. “I wanted to make sure I spent some good quality time with her.”
The Georgia Health Care Association wants more visitors and volunteers to spend time with nursing home residents during the last weeks of December. The association’s Share a Moment of Love this Holiday campaign encourages the public to pay a visit to local facilities to help spread holiday cheer even if you don’t know someone there.
The goal is to improve the quality of life of nursing home residents.
Elderly residents who are not in their long-time homes celebrating Christmas with children and grandchildren often have a difficult time during the holidays, said Camille Bruce, executive director of Golden Living Augusta. Some families neglect to visit residents because they are out of town or the holidays become too busy, and other residents have no family, she said.
“Nothing takes the place of your family,” Bruce said.
Carter knows that not everyone has family to pay a visit like her mother does. So, she invited another resident to split the slice of caramel cake with her mother, and she donated extra presents to the facility’s Christmas party last week.
At Pruitt Health Augusta on Milledgeville Road, volunteers are needed throughout the year but especially around the holidays, said activities director Tamicka Franklin. Even a visit from a stranger can help boost spirits and spread holiday cheer.
“It really warms them, makes them feel like ‘hey, I’m special in someone’s eyes,’” Franklin said. “You’re giving them that time. Your attention is on them.”
Visiting a nursing home can be a simple action that can sometimes be the start of a new friendship, Bruce said.
Although some people are reluctant or nervous to visit a nursing home, staff can schedule an appropriate time and help visitors become more comfortable.
“We can guide you through it. We can help educate you on how to interact and calm your fears,” Bruce said.
To fill the facility on Anthony Road with Christmas cheer, the Golden Living staff planned extra activities and handed out special gifts to residents. Nurses wore Santa hats and jingle bells and led caroling.
“We don’t want anyone sitting around feeling extra sadness because there’s nothing to do,” Bruce said.
Golden Living resident Ruth Nelson smiled big on Christmas Day, even though her relatives couldn’t celebrate with her. Nelson said she was surrounded by other residents and staff members who have become her surrogate family.
The reason her smile reached from ear to ear: “The knowledge that everybody loves me back,” she said.