Wikwemikong Nursing Home embraces unique Christmas tradition

Helen Oswald and Ken Peltier take a moment to share a laugh beside a Christmas tree bedecked with Christmas wishes. Each ornament has a couple of Christmas present wishes and a number corresponding to an elder in the Wikwemikong Nursing Home. Folks are invited to select one of the ornaments and bring the corresponding gifts to the nursing home by December 11. The smiles might be in anticipation of Crystal Shawanda performance that will take place at the nursing home December 11 at 2 pm.

MANITOULIN—Christmas is a very special time of year and local long-term care nursing homes have built their own traditions to help their elders celebrate the festive season.

Asked if there was something special that takes place in Wiikwemkoong, Wikwemikong Nursing Home Activities Manager Emily Barnes said “we certainly do!” At the residence, staff have erected a special Christmas tree bedecked with ornaments that each have two Christmas gift wishes of residents and a number that corresponds to that resident (for reasons of privacy).

“It’s mostly clothing items the elders ask for,” she said. Members of the community are invited to come into the home and pick up an ornament, bringing back their gift/gifts by December 15 so that the staff have time to fill in any gaps in the list.

Although the Wikwemikong Nursing Home is located in the community of Wiikwemkoong, it does serve other communities as well, not only First Nations. “We do have elders here from communities across the Island and beyond,” said Ms. Barnes.

In addition to the ornaments on the Christmas tree, staff at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home also stuff stockings for each of the residents. “We have 55 elders in our home,” noted Ms. Barnes. Staff at the nursing home have a strong bond to the residents,” she added. “We have 12 hour shifts, so our staff spend more time in the week with the residents than they do with their own families.”

There is also a ‘Cookies with Santa’ event taking place from 2 pm to 4 pm on December 8. “People can drop by and pick up an ornament or drop off their gift while having a visit,” said Ms. Barnes. Residents are also pretty excited about the upcoming concert by Crystal Shawanda that will take place on December 11 at 2 pm.

At the Manitoulin Centennial Manor the auxiliary purchases gifts for the residents, with gift idea input for each resident from the nursing staff and personal support workers, as well as Activities Director Julie Omnet and her assistant. “We give ideas and input,” said Ms. Omnet. “People often ask for alcohol in particular and, if the request is within reason, they get it.”

Little Current Public School Grade 6 students come into the Manor once a month in November and start making a present for each resident. “It is a special contact that the residents really cherish,” said Ms. Omnet. The students will be presenting their gifts to the residents on December 21 at 10:30 am.

At Gore Bay’s Manitoulin Lodge Long-term Care, the residents enjoy a Christmas party where they have their own Christmas present exchange, notes Lodge Activities Manager Gloria Hall. “Santa comes in and then distributes the gifts,” she said. “A lot of our residents did some Christmas shopping at the Christmas Tea and Bazaar sale.”

“On Christmas morning, all the residents who are here gather in the front room and everyone has a gift,” said Ms. Hall. “As gifts come in I check things off and I make sure that, even if they have had gifts and celebrations with their families, they have a gift to open under the tree on Christmas morning. Everybody gets a gift.”