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Birthday celebrations provide an opportunity to honor elderly clients and let them know they are appreciated and valued.
The Western tradition of celebrating birthdays with cake and candles has certainly caught in other parts of the world. However in some cultures, they make less of a fuss. The Chinese, for example, celebrate by eating a plate of long noodles to symbolize longevity. The Vietnamese do not acknowledge the exact day they were born and everyone celebrates their birthday on New Years Day.
It is important to consider the cultural background of your clients and their personal preferences when planning birthday celebrations.
What does the resident want?
In addition to cultural considerations, it is important to remember that birthdays are all about be what they want and not what we want. Fuss over those that like a fuss, and quietly congratulate those that don't. It is important that the birthday person is involved in planning their birthday celebrations; it is a personal decision.
We tend to plan big parties for milestone birthdays, but does the client agree? Remember that the client's energy level and health are major factors to consider when planning celebrations. Find out as much as possible by consulting the client and their family.
- Do they like large of small gatherings?
- Do they like surprise parties?
- Do they prefer quiet time with family?
If the client is hesitant about a party offer other choices:
- A champagne luncheon with people who are meaningful to them
- A high tea with friends and family
- A picnic at a park or beach
- A happy hour celebration
- A BBQ lunch or a festive diner
- A trip to a museum or Art Gallery and lunch al fresco
Some clients find birthdays rather depressing and prefer not to celebrate; we should respect their wishes if that is the case.
Monthly Birthday Parties
Many facilities hold a party each month to celebrate birthdays. This is sometimes a high tea or luncheon exclusive to residents that have birthdays that month and their family members.
Alternatively, some facilities hold all-inclusive parties each month where those celebrating their birthday wear a sparkly hat, help cut the cake and have their photo taken.
Celebrating with Family
For some families, celebrating the birthday of a loved one living in long term care is an opportunity to gather the family together. Support and assist families with their plans in any way you can.
Making People Feel Special on their Birthday
There are a number of ways you can make people feel special on the day of their birthday depending on their preferences.
- Put a Happy Birthday sign on their door. That way everyone knows it's their birthday and they get birthday wishes all day!
- Decorate their room with balloons
- Offer them a "It's My Birthday" badge for them to wear for the day
- Bring in a cake when everyone is in the dining room and sing happy birthday and get them to blow out a candle.
- If the client is from another background, play happy birthday in their mother tongue afterwards on an ipad.
- Invite family members to visit. If family members cannot attend, suggest a skype or facetime call for them to pass on their birthday wishes.
- Ask local school children to make a birthday card or make a card in a craft session
- Present them with a token gift (see gift suggestions below)
How to Plan a Birthday Party
All parties should have a little planning and be well organised so that when the time comes, they are stress free!
- Make sure you budget is adequate.
- Remember to cater for those on sugar-free diets and diabetics if necessary.
- What sort of decorations have been planned? How many sessions will be needed to make them?
- Be mindful of not infringing on other activities that have already been planned for the day.
- Choose a couple of fun activities; a game or a quiz to include in the celebration
- Who will be in charge of invitations? How will they be sent? Telephone, email, snail-mail?
- What gift(s) have you organised? Home-made gifts made by their peers or a useful commercial gift?
- Find someone with a guitar or a piano player to accompany ‘Happy Birthday' singing.
- Organise a game or two! Pin the tail on the donkey usually brings some quality giggles. A balloon-between-knees race among staff can also offer some hilarious fun.
Tips for Celebrating the Birthday of Centenarians
Centenarians used to be a rarity, but not anymore. Queen Elizabeth of England had to take on extra staff to cope with the surge of centenarians. The Whitehall ‘birthday card team' reported a 70% rise in the number of people turning 100 in the past decade!
Living to be 100 years old is a milestone, worthy of celebration! Keep in mind if the birthday client has dementia, avoid overstimulation. Observe body language and take them away from the party for a quiet time in their bedroom or elsewhere if needed.
- Assemble a picture gallery of photos for each decade of their life. Alternatively choose photos of important dates in their life: wedding, graduation, the birth of grandchildren. Photos are a wonderful way to stir-up memories.
- Organise a cake and propose a toast to a life well-lived.
- Create a slideshow of photos that plays continuously throughout the party.
- Play songs from their favourite decade of music; it is great for setting the mood.
- Have the Chef cook their favourite foods. Also offer traditional birthday party food such as fairy bread, ice cream and jelly cups.
- Take photos of them with friends, family, and staff for posterity.
- Display a basket with 100 cookies or decorate the room with 100 balloons.
- Videotape guests during the party and ask them to share their favourite memory of the centenarian.
- Prepare a large card with birthday wishes from friends, staff, and family.
- Ask the centenarian for their secret to a long life - write it down.
- Present a tree that will be planted in their honor.
- Offer entertainment: research the year in which they were born and come up with some interesting facts to read out including things like the cost of a house, car, or average income to amuse guests.
- Write to your local newspaper with a small biography of the centenarian and include a photo - they may well publish it!
- If the resident is religious, facilitate the visit of a Minister of religion.
- When inviting family and friends ask them to bring a written memory of some event or achievement to place in the client's scrapbook.
Suitable Gift Ideas for the Elderly
- An address book with the telephone numbers of friends and family
- Non-slip slippers
- An easy to look after plant like a succulent
- Chocolate (if allowed)
- Hand cream
- Colouring Book
- Homemade cookies
- Large print game books (crosswords, sudoku)
- Face washer
- Lavender bags
- Wind chimes
We'd love to hear your feedback!
How do you celebrate resident birthdays at your workplace?