Home for the holidays: Socializing important for nursing home residents

Monday, December 6, 2010
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Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays,

For no matter how far away you roam -

When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,

For the holidays - you can't beat home, sweet home!

Being home for the holidays takes on new meaning for residents in assisted care centers. They may be missing the homes they had previously lived in for many years. They certainly miss faraway friends and family members. They wonder if the holidays can be happy for them.

Activity directors from area nursing homes plan calendars full of jolly activities. The staff does its best to deck the halls and make things festive. Throughout December, many church and school groups sing, help with crafts and bring gifts. But after the hustle and bustle of the weeks leading up to the big day, volunteers can be hard to come by on Dec. 25. Yet residents may still be able to find "the sunshine of a friendly gaze."

Cassie Zeilenga, activity director for the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau, is grateful that one group of people, the James Deneke family, comes faithfully to celebrate the savior's birth with the residents. "They have been doing our Christmas morning service along with Pastor John Rice from New Mckendree Methodist in Jackson for many years," says Zeilenga. Even when pastor cannot come -- which has only been twice to my knowledge -- they do the service, preaching and singing. They have a very talented family. The kids do a special song, someone plays guitar and they end the service with 'Silent Night.' It is very special. Whenever I thank them, they always say they couldn't imagine Christmas morning any other way than to be here with the veterans."

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