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Christmas giving: Nursing home residents celebrate Christmas amid pandemic

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Residents at the Regency in Shawnee decorate their Christmas trees.
Residents at the Regency in Shawnee decorate their Christmas trees.
Residents at the Regency in Shawnee decorate their Christmas trees.
Residents at the Regency in Shawnee decorate their Christmas trees.
McLoud Nursing Home residents with their miniature trees which were donated by family and friends.
McLoud Nursing Home residents with their miniature trees which were donated by family and friends.
Golden Rule Home residents decorating for the holidays.
Golden Rule Home residents decorating for the holidays.

During the season of giving, Pottawatomie County area nursing homes and staffs are working to keep residents safe while giving them a very merry Christmas amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Various nursing homes are providing gifts and preparing COVID-19 friendly Yuletide celebrations for residents. 

Some facilities are encouraging communities to contribute to the celebrations, while others ask people to refrain from sending anything because they feel it's the best way to keep residents safe from the coronavirus.  

According to Marilyn Love, administrator of McLoud Nursing Home, both staff and residents are adapting to the pandemic this holiday season.  

"Our residents can definitely tell it's Christmastime, but it's certainly not what they have always been accustomed to," Love said. "No community and holiday dinner, no school programs or carolers, no grade school classes bringing art projects, cards or pictures and none of the homemade treats always brought in by family members as an appreciation to the staff for caring for their loved one." 

 However, Love said, while this year is different, the McLoud Nursing Center has decorated for the holiday and will hold socially-distanced Christmas celebrations for residents. 

"We have festive music playing throughout the facility as well as guests who Bluetooth music from the front parking lot," Love said. "Our halls are decked with Christmas cheer and common areas with lights and trees as well. Residents' rooms have been decorated with miniature trees donated by families and friends."  

Love said so far, the McLoud Nursing Center remains COVID free and the facility will continue to follow its restrictions to keep residents safe during the holidays and for the foreseeable future. 

"Of course, with the positivity rate being 27.1 right now in Pottawatomie County, we are still trying to do window, door and virtual visits as much as possible and bumping up activities to keep our residents moving while still social distancing," Love said.  

In addition, the administrator said the nursing home isn't accepting outside gifts or food from the community because she believes it's been the most effective prevention of positive COVID-19 cases within the nursing home.  

"The calls, Facetime, one-on-one activities and music help to be a distraction, (but) we realize we can never replace (residents) loved ones and how much they miss their past holiday traditions," Love said.  

While the facility isn't allowing outside items from the community, Love said it's allowing family members to send certain items that have been deemed safe and family members can continue to communicate with residents in safe ways.  

"We work hard each and every day to make sure each and every resident knows they are safe, loved and very much a part of a close-knit facility doing our best to see that they have a very merry Christmas," Love said. 

In addition to the McLoud Nursing Center, the staff at The Regency in Shawnee is working to provide holiday celebrations to residents as the pandemic continues.  

According to Activities Director April Serena, the Regency is doing Secret Santa as all staff members purchased gifts for various residents in the facility.  

Serena said those gifts will be placed under several trees in the hallways of the facility, which residents were able to decorate.  

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus Serena said residents at the Regency have been separated into those hallways and will each have a Christmas celebration on Dec. 23.  

Serena said residents will be able to drink punch, eat Christmas cookies and open their presents from staff, family, friends and the community.  

Along with presents and sweets, Serena said residents will be able to video chat with their loved ones.  

Both family members and community members can send gifts to the residents, Serena said.  

People can mail in or drop off their items at the Regency located at 1610 N. Bryan Avenue and those items will be sanitized before given to residents.  

Staff at the Regency encourage people to send items such as socks, body wash, shampoo, candy, Christmas cards, coloring books, crayons, word searches and puzzles. 

Along with the Regency and McLoud Nursing Center, the staff at Golden Rule Home in Bethel Acres is working hard to give their residents a nice Christmas. 

According to Administrator Jessica Mitchell, this year Christmas at Golden Rule will remain relatively normal.  

“This Christmas will be no different than previous years, just a few minor changes to the process of our celebration,” Mitchell said.  

The administrator said there are six Christmas trees throughout the facility and bright decorations everywhere, including on residents’ bedroom doors.  

In addition, Mitchell said the yearly Golden Rule Home Angel Tree is up.  

“There are a few names left on our Angel Christmas tree. If there are any family members, community members and/or staff that want to purchase gifts for a resident, they just simply need to call the facility and ask for Timberly,” Mitchell said.  

The administrator explained Timberly will choose a resident for people to purchase gifts for. 

“All we ask is that the gifts be delivered, wrapped or unwrapped, to the facility no later than 2 p.m. on Monday, December 21,” Mitchell said. “Families are encouraged to call and set up visitations with their loved ones.” 

In addition, Mitchell said both staff and residents at Golden Rule Home will celebrate the week of Christmas with festive themed days and activities. 

Mitchell said the activities for the week of Christmas include: Monday is the Grinch day in which staff and residents will watch the movie and everyone dresses in green. 

Tuesday is the Resident Christmas Party at 2 p.m. as well as Ugly Christmas sweater day. 

Wednesday is Polar Express day and everyone will wear pajamas and enjoy a warm cup of hot cocoa while watching The Polar Express. 

Thursday is Nutcracker bingo and Friday will conclude the celebration with a wonderful Christmas lunch being served.  

“Golden Rule would like to give a huge shout out to Gary Chiz at the local Elks Lodge,” Mitchell said. “He’s been working hard to help purchase and donate a 12-foot-tall Christmas tree to the facility.” 

Lastly, Mitchell said Golden Rule Home would like to thank everyone who has and will be a part of making this holiday season a very special one.  

Check back for updates.