Holiday Gifts for Residents

Today I am blogging an answer to a common long-term care question about holiday gifts for residents of long-term care facilities.

Question: My sister is in a nursing home and I’m not sure what would be a good gift for her during the holiday season. Any suggestions?

Answer: Ask her what she wants. There may be something she’d enjoy or something which would make her life more pleasant.  Some residents need and want clothing, including undergarments.  She might like a nice outfit for the holidays or a coat and gloves. Does she like to watch television, read, or listen to music?  Does she need a television?  You might get her books, a CD player and CDs, or an MP3 player loaded with audio books and music files. Don’t forget to write her name on anything you give her, either by using permanent marker or engraving the item(s).  Wireless earphones are a great gift for someone who has trouble hearing the television or likes to watch without disturbing anyone else. Many residents cannot afford cable television or telephone since most residents only have a $40 allowance for incidentals each month. What about a prepaid cell phone or cable television for a year?  Additional gift ideas: personal items such as toiletries of the resident’s brand of choice, a trip to the beauty shop, magazine subscriptions, digital photo frames, or soft and plush blankets.  If she uses a walker, you might consider a walker-tote, which attaches to a walker using Velcro®.  These are perfect for the person on the go.  You can find them at drug stores and medical supply stores.  Another option is art, especially if it is created by an artist or children she cares about. You could create a photo album or scrapbook that would bring back fond memories.  Be sure to ask the facility social worker or other facility staff to update the resident’s personal belongings inventory list so that new items are on the list.  This might help recover misplaced, lost or stolen items.  Note that some residents just want to be remembered throughout the year with regular visits, some fresh home-cooked food, and opportunities to be involved in family outings whenever possible.

Question: My brother lives in a nursing home and he would like to come home for the holidays. Will the nursing home let him?

Answer: Your brother can come and go as he is able. If he uses the Medicaid program, he is allowed to be away from the facility a total of ten days each year for purely social reasons.  The Medicaid program calls this “therapeutic leave.” If he is currently using Medicare to pay for his stay in a skilled nursing facility, the facility can bill Medicare for the day’s stay if he returns to the facility by midnight. With advanced preparation, going home can be the best gift your brother could have this season. You should talk with the nursing staff at least two to three days in advance of the outing so they can prepare for it. The staff should package needed medication, bag up incontinence supplies, write down special food preparation instructions, and anything else you might need to do.  Ask the staff to give their instructions to you in writing.  If you run into trouble, you can always call the nursing home and ask questions. If there is a medical emergency while he’s home, call 911 as you would for anyone else and then alert the nursing staff at the facility.  If he tires and wants to return to the facility earlier than expected, respect his wishes.  With a little planning and a lot of love, it should go just great.

If you have questions about long-term care, call the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency (NHOA) at 859-277-9215 or email us at