Helping Your Patients Beat the Holiday Blues
The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year, full of time spent with family and friends. For some it is the time of the year they look forward to most. However, for many patients, it can be a sad a difficult time. This is especially true for patients that are receiving inpatient care, who cannot be home for the holidays or the residents of long term care facilities who no longer live in the homes that they previously did. Every year, despite decorations lining the halls of the facility and secret Santa gift exchanges, there are several patients who tend to fall into a kind of holiday “blues. There are, however, some ways to help patients get through this time and even enjoy the season.
One technique that I use when working with inpatient rehabilitation patients around the holidays, is focusing more on the specific functional goals that we have and less on the possible date of achieving those goals and discharging home. I find that when patients get too focused on their discharge date, they can become disappointed if they are not able go home on that exact date or before. I also spend more time around the holidays educating my patients on the need to participate in their full course of rehabilitation. I have seen so many patients leave a facility early because they felt pressure from impending holidays and then have a serious problem or fall at home.
Another good way to connect with your patients around the holidays is to ensure that you are being a considerate communicator. More than ever, it is important to consider the questions you are asking a patient or the stories that you are telling them. For example, you want to be careful before asking a patient about how their Christmas was or what their plans are for New Years if you don’t know what the patients emotional status is. You may also want to refrain from talking too much about your holiday plans and experiences, unless you know that the patient will enjoy hearing about them.
Though some people may want to just ignore the holidays, this is very difficult to do. If you have patients that seem down one way to try to help cheer them up is to try to get them involved in holiday activities. We have many patients who become melancholy because they are missing their favorite holiday activities at home like baking cookies or decorating a tree, so why not bring those activities to the patients. Many of the activities related to the holidays can be incorporated into regular therapeutic activities. Having your patient walk around the room to hang decorations or stand at the counter and practice balance while making a homemade ornament are great ways to make therapy fun and get patients into the holiday spirit.
These tips, of course, are not for patients that may be experiencing true clinical depression. Patients with severe depression should be referred to social work and nursing to treat these symptoms.