While nursing homes and other long-term care facilities provide for a resident’s basic needs, they are often just that – basic. So when the holiday season comes around, there is an opportunity for churches and members of the community to come alongside families and reach out to nursing home residents. From the first day the holiday season commences in late October to the beginning of the new year several weeks later, any of us can find ourselves coping with loneliness, depression, or a simple case of the ba-humbugs. For those who are more dependent on facility caregivers or infrequent family visits, consider for a moment how the holiday season, especially Christmas, can bring about a sense of emptiness or be an opportunity for them to experience the joy that for some may only be a distant memory of holidays past.

If you have family members in an assisted living or long term care residence, plan to shower them with lots of attention this Christmas. Bring the kids and the gifts and spend significant time sharing a holiday that truly is about the gift of life and the reality of human dignity. Jesus– “the reason for the season” — is the basis for caring for our fellow humanity at any age or stage of life. But its at Christmas time that we realize just how special his birth is and what that means for each of us as we approach our later years. And when we each become more dependent on the care of someone else, we begin to realize how important our relationships with others truly are–how they bring special meaning to our lives. Those feelings don’t go away when entering into a long-term care facility, in fact they probably become more pronounced.

So this week as your finalizing your plans to celebrate with gifts and special meals and candle light church services, don’t forget about those who have come before you and given you the gift of life and wisdom. Reach out to friends and family in your area nursing homes and make their Christmas a new memory they will always cherish.