For many people, the holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. For others, it’s a stark reminder that they’re all but alone in the world.
More than 1.4 million people live in nursing homes in the United States alone. The overwhelming majority of nursing home residents are elderly people who can no longer live independently, often due to mental or physical infirmity. Nursing homes also provide shelter and support to younger patients who require hands-on medical care.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Set Up a Christmas Card Flood to a Local Nursing Home
- Supplies You’ll Need to Make the Christmas Cards
- Steps for Sending Christmas Cards to Nursing Home Residents
- Christmas Card Message Ideas for Nursing Home Residents
Some nursing home residents are fortunate enough to have family members nearby to oversee care and provide companionship to their loved ones. But many people end up in nursing homes because they don’t have any family support. While their physical and medical care are met by staff, their emotional health can sometimes be overlooked.
Just knowing that someone cares about them is one of the best gifts for nursing home residents. Even if you don’t know anyone in a nursing home, you can still help brighten up someone’s holiday. Something as simple as sending a Christmas card can help an isolated individual feel connected to the community once more. Here’s how to get started.
How to Set Up a Christmas Card Flood to a Local Nursing Home
While nursing homes employ paid staff, they also rely on volunteer support. Volunteers might run activities, read stories, or offer their company. Research local nursing homes in your area and find out which ones utilize volunteers. Those facilities often have a volunteer coordinator on staff that you can directly connect with. You can reach out and open up a dialogue with that coordinator to see if they’d be open to receiving a Christmas Card Flood.
What is a Christmas Card Flood anyway? It’s pretty much what it sounds like! Typically a team of volunteers will work together to make personalized cards for nursing home restaurants.
The volunteer coordinator can provide you with a list of residents who would benefit from receiving some unexpected holiday cheer. If it’s a small list, you may be able to tackle it on your own or with a few friends. If the nursing home you partner with has lots of patients in need of support, you may need to call in some reinforcements.
Supplies You’ll Need to Make the Christmas Cards
Many retail stores carry boxed Christmas cards around the holiday season. If you aren’t the crafty type, you can opt for store-bought cards instead of handmade ones. But while they’re undeniably convenient, a handmade card often feels more personal.
If you opt to make your own cards, you’ll need to stock up on supplies. Here’s our list of recommended materials:
- Construction paper in a variety of seasonally appropriate colors (red and green is a classic combination for Christmas, while blue and white has a wintry feel — you can also use other colors like black and yellow to accent your cards)
- Oversized envelopes to accommodate the completed cards
- Paper punches for creating decorative shapes (look for holiday-themed silhouettes, like snowflakes, stars, and Christmas trees)
- Gold and silver metallic paint pens
- Black markers for writing
- Glue sticks
Keep reading to find out how you can utilize these supplies.
Steps for Sending Christmas Cards to Nursing Home Residents
Once you’ve assembled your supplies, it’s time to start putting all the pieces together. Following these steps will help ensure that your Christmas Card Flood is successful.
1. Reach out to local nursing homes
Earlier, we talked a bit about narrowing down potential nursing homes to partner with. Once you’ve made your list, you can start making calls. Depending on your level of ambition, you may even decide to work with multiple facilities! Make sure to ask up front how many residents will be receiving cards so that you can plan accordingly.
Ideally, the volunteer liaison will be able to send you a list that includes, at minimum, the first names of each patient who will be receiving a card. Because they provide medical care, they may be limited in the amount of personal information they can share.
2. Assemble your team
Once you know how many Christmas cards you’ll need to make, you can get your team in place. You can reach out directly to family and friends or make a social media post to generate interest in your project.
3. Throw a Christmas card party
While you could just divvy up the list and send it out for people to do on their own time, it would kind of defeat the spirit of togetherness. Instead, we recommend inviting your Christmas card crew to meet up in person for a collaborative crafting session. This is a great way to honor the sense of community that inspired this effort in the first place.
Before your guests arrive, you’ll need to set up crafting stations and equip them with supplies. Envelopes and construction paper should be stacked in a central location easily accessible to everyone. Tools like scissors, paper punches, and metallic paint pens can be shared communally — you don’t have to have enough of these items for every volunteer.
Still, you want to make sure to have enough so that people aren’t squabbling over supplies. Finally, be sure to stock up on glue sticks and permanent markers — because they are frequently in use, they aren’t as shareable as the rest of the listed items.
4. Feed your guests
While you and your guests may be working on a project, this is still a party. And the best parties always have good food. Set out an assortment of snacks and appetizers, so your crew has something to nibble on when they need a little break. You can set out a tray of assorted Christmas cookies for a festive dessert option. People may want to chew on food while they’re making their cards, so stay away from sticky or messy foods.
5. Use music to set the mood
Christmas music is always an excellent choice for a holiday. Before your guests arrive, you can curate a playlist of upbeat pop covers of Christmas carols. The music should be loud enough for guests to hear but not so loud that it interferes with conversations. Putting on background music is a great way to liven up a gathering of any size.
6. Make Christmas cards
The supplies we selected for this project are versatile enough that volunteers can express their creativity. Before your guests arrive, you may want to make a few sample cards to show them if they need a little inspiration.
Fold a piece of blue construction paper in half, punch out white snowflakes, and glue them on the front. Then fold some red construction paper in half and adorn it with green Christmas trees. You can draw some decorative designs with metallic paint pens if you're artistically inclined.
Eyesight tends to worsen with age, so nursing patients may have difficulty reading or even seeing the cards. Make sure the volunteers use black markers when writing messages on the cards, as it will be much more readable than a ballpoint pen or metallic markers.
While cursive writing is pretty, it can be difficult to read. Instead, ask volunteers to write their notes in neat and legible print penmanship.
While glue sticks tend to dry pretty quickly, people may not want to put their cards into the envelopes right away. They can save this task until the very end. If they address a card to a specific person, have them make sure that the name on the card matches the name that they write on the envelope. Collect the completed cards and keep them together.
7. You’ve made your list — now check it twice
Dividing up your list of Christmas card recipients and delegating portions of it out makes a massive project like this a lot more manageable. But you also run the risk of people falling through the cracks. Organize the cards and then go down your recipient list to ensure that no one gets overlooked. After all of this effort, it would be a shame if any residents were inadvertently left out.
8. Deliver cards to the nursing home
The final step in this process is to take your completed Christmas cards to your chosen nursing home. Reach out to your contact person and set a date and time for dropoff. Because of privacy concerns and health risks, you may not be able to deliver cards to each recipient individually. If that’s the case, you can always reach out after the holidays if you want to know how the gesture was received.
Christmas Card Message Ideas for Nursing Home Residents
Most people can write a thoughtful note to a loved one without having to think too hard about what they should say. It can be more challenging to craft a meaningful message to a stranger. If you need inspiration, be sure to check out some famous encouraging quotes to get the creative juices flowing. We’ve also created a few sample messages to help kickstart the process:
- I hope that you’re having a happy and harmonious holiday season and that the upcoming year continues to bring you joy.
- My Christmas wish is for you to have an amazing holiday.
- May all your holiday wishes come true!
- Your presence in the world is a true gift. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
- Wishing you joy this holiday season, and in the weeks and months that follow.
Help Someone Have a Happy, Hopeful Holiday
They say it’s better to give than it is to receive. This holiday season, you have the opportunity to share a truly special present — the gift of human connection. Social isolation is painful at any age.
Opening up the line of communication is the first step to ending the epidemic of loneliness in seniors. The great thing about communication is that it’s a two-way street. In all likelihood, sending a kind message to a stranger will benefit your well-being even as it brightens their day.