Fighting Nursing Home Loneliness through Caring by Cards
For Seniors living in Nursing Homes, the experience can be both comforting and isolating.
Residents with health conditions who require daily oversight or medical care may need a skilled nursing facility, and there can be advantages to a Nursing Home such as providing physical safety and 24-hour access to trained physicians.
In some cases, nursing homes can provide seniors with a sense of community and engagement, helping provide cognitive stimulation, physical exercise, and daily connection to friends.
However, living in a nursing home can also be very challenging for residents.
Residents have been uprooted from the familiarity and comfort of their personal homes. They often feel a sense of loss from that. They may have been placed in a home far from family who cannot visit often and so they feel isolated or may not have the level of interaction with loved ones they had in the past. Dementia patients have a hard time adjusting to new, unfamiliar environments and so can become stressed and angry. Residents must also adjust to new schedules and routines with less flexibility, less freedom and less independence. They cannot leave when they want or go do what they may want to do. They have less choice (set menus, set activities, etc.).
No matter how wonderful the nursing home is, no matter how much the staff works to build a sense of community and trust with and among residents, no matter if the nursing home schedule and menus are beneficial to the overall mental and physical health of the patients, residents may lose self-esteem and feel depressed. They can become fearful, lonely, and feel isolated.
The prevalence of severe loneliness among older people living in care homes is at least double that of community-dwelling populations: 22% to 42% for the resident population compared with 10% for the community population.(1) Such feelings can lead to a decline in physical health and quality of life. Cognitive abilities can be negatively impacted.
What can we do to help?
One way to help residents of Nursing Homes feel connected and loved and remind them that they are important, is by sending hand-created or hand-written cards and notes.
I know cards will not solve social isolation, depression, and loneliness, but sending cards is an accessible way to connect from a distance and send hugs to someone to brighten their day. Receiving hand-written cards and notes can provide happiness and a feeling of belonging. It is an easy way for you to reach out to support someone and share a hug across the miles. And the residents I’ve worked with LOVE receiving them!
The non-profit Caring by Cards lives in this space. They are focused on bringing joyful moments and smiles to residents of Nursing Homes. Their goal is to sharing love.
Caring by Cards rallies the public to send hand-made cards and letters to local Nursing Homes for distribution to the residents. They partner with a variety of homes in various States across the US but they also encourage participants to look up their local nursing homes and make cards for the residents there. They provide guidance on how to do that.
Sharing Valentine’s Day LOVE!
The week leading into Valentine’s Day my Firm’s group of new Spring Interns took a much-needed break from tax form preparation to partner with Caring by Cards.
We created over 80 Valentine’s Day cards for a New York City based assisted living and nursing home in Manhattan. One for each resident.
Because the Interns were newly hired and still bonding with each other and the Firm, it was an amazing opportunity for them to do something fun and meaningful while getting to know each other! And they jumped right into creating the cards!
It was very fun to see how they approached the project as individuals and as a team, and to see how wonderfully creative they were in creating the cards.
I was very proud of the team for their work!
They started with piles of the basics – colored card stock, stickers, colored markers and pens, etc.
And we discussed some suggestions and guidance on wording for the messages, format for the cards (simple and large).
It was a great way to de-stress from the work of the day and have some positive impact on members of our community.
The nursing home we chose was one connected to Caring by Cards and it was not far from our office.
As you see from the photos, we we have some very talented interns! However – Caring by Cards reminds us that the cards do not need to be fancy or extravagant. Just making something hand-made is special!
At the end of the day, I dropped the cards off at the facility. Each resident received a card on Valentine’s Day and our team had a lot of fun together making them.
But that’s not the end of the journey! This post is action-focused for YOU too!
YOU can help bring smiles to local Nursing Home residents and it’s SUPER EASY to do it!
All you need to do is follow these steps:
- STEP ONE: Find a Nursing Home and connect with them:
- Caring by Cards partners with a variety of homes across the USA: https://caringbycard.com/?p=256 or you can do a Google Search and find a local home.
- Be sure call the nursing home and ask to speak with the Head of Recreation so you can tell them you are making cards to send to them so they can be on the lookout for them. Remember to get a person’s name to address the packet to, and to get a good mailing address.
- STEP TWO: Make the cards (any number of them):
- You do NOT have to make a card for every resident. You can send a few or many.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE – you don’t have to go fancy. In fact, you want them to have large drawings and large print.
- You can write notes in store-bought cards instead of creating cards, but creating simple cards goes the extra mile and always brings on smiles!
- STEP THREE: Drop off or mail the cards to the destination:
- Often you won’t be able to give your cards directly to the residents (for health reasons), but don’t worry – the team at the facility will make sure your cards are distributed.
- You may want to take a photo of your card-makers and include that in the packet with the cards. The residents LOVE to see the photo! We included a photo of the Interns in the packet with our cards.
Any amount of cards goes a long way!
Don’t worry if there are not enough cards for every resident, the staff at the facility will use your cards as centerpieces for a meal, or hang them for display in a central area, or hang them on the shared room doors of the residents.
Want to try a simple Pop-up Card?
Want to get a little more creative? Pop-up cards are great for visual engagement. You can find step by step instructions here: https://tinkerlab.com/simple-diy-pop-up-cards-for-creative-kids/
It takes very little effort to bring a smile to a senior citizen at a Nursing Home!
I hope you will make a few cards and send them. It’s a great rainy day activity and it’s great for children’s parties, school/club activities, office lunch activities, etc.
If you do create cards, please post a photo in the comments – I would love to see your creations!
Want to learn more about Caring by Card?
Check out their website at: https://caringbycard.com/
Thank you for journeying along with me this week.
XO XO – Penny
1. Victor C.R. Loneliness in care homes: A neglected area of research? Aging Health. 2012;8:637–646.