Anyone who has visited the window of an assisted living facility in the last few months knows how heartbreaking it is to see residents confined inside. I’ll never forget the day this summer when my son sang to his 98-year-old great-grandpa through the window at his nursing home. With a second wave of COVID-19 cases hitting the United States, it could be months before friends and family will be allowed to enter. But even if trick-or-treating at nursing homes is out this year, you can still spread some holiday cheer to your loved ones. Activity coordinators at nursing homes tell us residents would love to hear from you, and there are so many ways to reach out.
“Our residents love to receive cards,” says Tina Archuleta of Life Care Center of Cheyenne in Wyoming. She says the best thing to do is keep the messages generic so they can be shared with anyone in the facility, but include a nice note that pertains to Halloween. You can either mail them or hand deliver them provided you check with the care center first regarding their drop-off regulations.
Candy, however, is a no-no. While it might seem like a great idea, the nursing homes Romper spoke to asked people to respectfully not bring candy. “The thing with candy is many of our residents are missing teeth so they can’t eat it,” says Angelique Morrison of Life Care Center of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her resident home is amenable to some sweet treats, however. They’ll accept pre-packaged items like cupcakes and soft cookies that are individually sealed for the health and safety of residents.
But you don’t have to be limited to treats. All of the facilities we spoke to said what those in assisted living places are really missing is interaction. One great way to get involved is to ask a local nursing home if your kids can come by a window dressed in their trick-or-treat gear and maybe sing a Halloween song or two for the residents. Or, if not in person, maybe you can sing Halloween carols in a video or over Zoom.
“We do a lot of video chats with families,” says Morrison. She says a video call is something a civic group or Girl Scouts Troop could put together with a Halloween theme. Or you could attempt some live entertainment, like a spooky song. Morrison says some of the best activities this year have been when groups (including a local radio station) have come and performed outside.
“Music goes over so well,” says Laurie Morris of Prestige Assisted Living at Kalispell, Montana. She’s even considering investing in heat towers so as the weather gets cooler, her residents can still go outside for any volunteer performances. So whether you organize a letter writing campaign, drop-off some Halloween decorated cupcakes, or put on show, just know that nursing home residents would love to hear from you. All it takes is reaching out to a facility to see what you can do.
“I urge your readers to simply call and ask how you can help,” says Morris. “Covid is tough, but let us help you with the details.”