“There’s no place like home for the holidays,” say the lyrics to a popular Christmas song. And as friends and families gather to celebrate their beliefs or enjoy traditional meal around a table, the absence of a family member can be very difficult. Is grandma, grandpa, mom or dad allowed to leave his or her assisted care facility or nursing home to join in the holiday festivities?
Many residents of assisted living facilities and residential care homes are able to leave the facility for special occasions, as long as family members give notice ahead of time, are able to care for their loved one while he or she is home and the resident is healthy enough to endure travel. Make sure you have wheelchair access if necessary, that you stick to medication schedules and adhere to special diets.
Concern over Medicare Coverage
If your loved one’s stay in a nursing home or care facility is funded in any way by Medicare, you may be concerned that you’ll forfeit Medicare coverage if he or she leaves the facility. According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., that is not a necessary concern. The Medicare Benefit Policy manual recognizes that leaving for a short time to attend a religious service, holiday gathering, family occasion or even a trial visit home, does not indicate a resident no longer needs skilled nursing care. Nursing home residents are permitted to leave for a short time without giving up Medicare funding.
Ways to Celebrate In the Assisted Living Facility
Although you may feel like the holidays aren’t the same without grandma or dad at home with the rest of the family, consider whether or not the visit is the right thing for them. Returning home–for just a short time–may trigger feelings of homesickness and loneliness upon their return. Are you having them home to satisfy your need for a family holiday, or theirs?
If it’s not feasible for your loved ones to come home, there are many ways to bring the holidays to them. Share photo albums from holidays past and talk about old memories. If your loved one has special ornaments or decorations, get them out and decorate his or her space. The taste of a favorite food may bring back memories of a happy time or satisfy the need for tradition. And most facilities go to great lengths to help their residents celebrate, inviting church choir groups, children’s groups, other seniors and families to participate in activities.
You may wonder, if your family member has dementia or is suffering from Alzheimer’s, why bother making an effort? Carol Bradley Bursak, editor-in-chief of ElderCareLink, says that even if your loved one is suffering from memory problems or dementia, their short-term memory is often foggy while they are able to remember things from the long-ago past. Ornaments and photos may provide a sense of familiarity and comfort. In fact, new items or recent pictures may add to his or her confusion. At the very heart, including an elderly loved one in your traditions reaffirms their humanity. Make each moment count.