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10 Ways to Bring the Holidays to the Hospital

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As the familiar Perry Como song goes, “Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.” With decorations carefully placed throughout the house, delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, and, most importantly, friends and family gathered together, the home is full of joyous traditions and memories around the holidays.

But the holidays take on a vastly different feel for an elderly loved one confined to a hospital room. In contrast to the festive sights, sounds, smells, tastes, moments and memories of home, the sterility and isolation of the hospital can breed sadness and depression.

Help your hospital-bound loved one feel the joy and meaning of the season by adapting a few favorite holiday traditions. Consult the following list of activities for inspiration.

  1. Let the kids unwrap a few gifts by Grandma’s bedside so she can see the joy on their faces.
  2. Decorate the room with holiday wreathes, garlands, strings of lights and battery-powered or plug-in candles. (Check with hospital staff before doing so.)
  3. Bring a photo album or scrapbook full of pictures from holidays past and reminisce with your loved one.
  4. Get the whole family together for a holiday sing-along in your loved one’s room.
  5. Listen to a recording of a religious service together.
  6. Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music.
  7. Create a sachet of fragrant dried balsam pine needles so your loved one can enjoy the Christmas tree smell.
  8. Bring your loved one’s favorite holiday treat to enjoy together (diet permitting).
  9. Watch a favorite holiday movie together, or, better yet, watch home videos of holidays passed.
  10. Bring a few special ornaments for your loved one to hold and discuss the memories associated with each. Even if Dad can’t be home to help decorate the tree, seeing and touching the ornaments can bring back wonderful memories.

(Tip: Check with your loved one’s nurses or doctors to know what is medically permissible in terms of activity level and diet. Also, make sure you know the best times to visit and for how long.)

Whatever activities you choose from this list or creatively come up with on your own to bring the holidays to the hospital, remember that what your loved one will appreciate most is the quality time spent together.

Last revised: September 27, 2012

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. December 22, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Posted by Jan

    Ask if you can have a holiday meal with your loved one. Hang up Christmas cards and pictures in their room. Take them a favorite food or cookies. Wrap gifts in their room or a common area together. Make sure something comes from them and also is given to them. Sing a Carol in the language of their heritage. (Stille Nacht is a favorite).


  2. May 16, 2014 at 4:19 am | Posted by Aubrey

    Thanks for the tips! To make our Thanksgiving a bit special, we headed out to the hospital where my mother was confined in and us siblings brought food and decor to enjoy it with Mum. I've always been close to my mother and taking care of her despite her sickness. I'd like to share this article where I found helpful tips to be with a hospitalizes loved one. You can read it here:


  3. December 18, 2012 at 2:06 am | Posted by KIM MOORE

    I shared my last Christmas with my mom Deceber 2007. I put up the Christmas Tree, decorated her room...I only pray that is was a good christmas for her...In February 2008 she was gone.


    • December 10, 2019 at 1:58 pm | Posted by Cathy

      The thought of being in a hospital at Christmas is so sad. Bringing Christmas to the hospital is a blessing. I put up a small flocked Christmas Tree (24") decorated with battery powered led lights with built in timer, pine cones, bird and a star. The staff and patients commented with happy :). Merry Christmas to all! God Bless!!!


  4. December 13, 2012 at 3:40 am | Posted by Leona

    Great tips thanks


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