How I Spend the Holidays in Assisted Living

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Written by Charlotte Lillquist, resident blogger for The Birches

When I moved to The Birches two years ago in October, I must admit, I hadn’t given the holidays much thought. Preparing for the move from one’s home takes every thought—what to get rid of, what to keep, will I like living there? Then it took a good week to get acclimated, and suddenly Halloween was upon us.

Before I knew it, there were wonderful decorations everywhere. We even had a night for trick-or-treaters to come and fill their bags with goodies. I thoroughly enjoyed it—and Halloween had never been my favorite holiday. Since that time, every holiday has been as much fun.

As the holidays approach, our wonderful staff puts up decorations, organizes holiday-related games and crafts, and has talented groups come to entertain us. There have been harp soloists, flute quintets, singers, storytellers, 13-piece orchestras and many others. Many of us have family nearby, and we go to their homes for the holiday just as we did before moving here. Being in assisted living for the holidays is not too different. As one resident told me, she goes out for dinner and then comes “home!”

For those whose family isn’t nearby or who can’t go out, our hard-working dining room staff is here to serve a special dinner for Christmas or another holiday. For Thanksgiving and Mothers’ Day, there’s a brunch. For the 4th of July and Labor Day, there’s a barbecue. There are always friends to sit with. Some families eat their meals here rather than have the resident leave.

Now, Thanksgiving is almost here and our community has decorations everywhere—not too many, just enough to give us the feeling of thankfulness. Some people do crafts for their doors. Others fill baskets for our soldiers.

Soon Christmas will be here; we see hints of it already on TV. This has always been my favorite holiday. It was my parents’ favorite too, and I carried that sense of tradition and fond memories over to my children. The preparations, baking and decorations all added to the excitement of the holiday. Obviously, some of these traditions change as our children get married, a spouse dies or we become somewhat limited in what we can do.

I remember the first time I walked in to the kitchen and found my teenage daughter and her cousin doing the dishes after Christmas dinner. I didn’t complain at all. I did enjoy the cooking, planning and decorating for dinner, but never liked the clean-up. Being able to sit down to an already-prepared meal is a real treat too. As one resident has said, “I rather like being waited on.”

It seems that by the time we move to assisted living, many of our traditions have already changed. We will hold on to our old memories and create new ones. I always wished I had a fireplace and could put the Christmas tree next to it. The first time I walked into The Birches’ Fireside Room and saw the Christmas tree I knew I was home—a new home, yes, but my home—a home for new memories to begin.

If you or someone you know would like to submit a question about assisted living to Charlotte, email it to mbeatty@birches.net or mail it to Attn: Bloggers at Birches, 215 55th St, Clarendon Hills, IL 60514. To follow The Birches’ blog and see Charlotte’s blog posts as they’re published, click “follow” at the top of this post.