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Nursing homes hope to increase visits at holidays

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On Christmas, Wanda Fowler and her daughter walked the halls of the nursing home where she is the administrator, handing out holiday cards to the employees of Unihealth Post-Acute Care – Augusta Hills.

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Emily Fowler, 5, hugs resident Virginia Walton while handing out Christmas cards at Unihealth Post-Acute Care - Augusta Hills. A holiday campaign is under way to get volunteers to visit residents of nursing homes.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Emily Fowler, 5, hugs resident Virginia Walton while handing out Christmas cards at Unihealth Post-Acute Care - Augusta Hills. A holiday campaign is under way to get volunteers to visit residents of nursing homes.

Every few feet, a resident would stop 5-year-old Emily Fowler for a hug.

“Some of them don’t have many visitors,” said Fowler, who oversees the 126-bed facility behind Augusta’s Bon Air Apartments. “They’re so excited when they see young people – especially children – walk through the halls.”

Before the holiday season is up, Fowler hopes to see an increase in visitors.

UPAC-Augusta Hills is one of 20 nursing homes in or near Augusta participating in the Georgia Health Care Association’s Share a Moment of Love This Holiday campaign.

The goal is to improve the quality of life for Georgia’s nursing home residents.

“It’s about getting people to put down the telephone, get off Facebook and visit residents in the nursing homes,” Fowler said. “It really means a lot to the residents when people come out and visit, whether its family or friends or volunteers who come to visit.”

Not everyone has visitors, she said.

“I’d estimate that at least 25 to 40 percent living in nursing homes don’t have family or friends to visit them,” she said.

Some don’t have family locally. Others have outlived their family and friends.

“I think it can definitely impact their health,” Fowler said. “A smile makes them feel a lot better.”

John Burns agreed.

The 46-year-old with sickle cell anemia said he’d like to see more people visit.

“They make you laugh,” he said. “They make you smile.”

In a news release, the Georgia Health Care Asso­ciation said it hopes that, through the campaign, volunteers might become regular visitors throughout the year.

“We’re all so busy during the holiday season that sometimes it is easy to forget just how much it means to spend a moment with a special person,” said Jon Howell, the president of the association.

Volunteers can just drop by a local nursing home.

“All they have to do is come,” Fowler said. “Sign in, ask for an activity director or nurse. Read a book. They love to play bingo. It would really make a huge difference in their lives.”


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