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Veterans Health Administration

Bringing Holiday Cheer to America’s Vets

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On the 12th day of…a healthier holiday season!

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System offers a clever and helpful version of a classic holiday list.

Try these daily tips for yourself and be sure to share them with your family and friends. Give yourself a gift this holiday season and choose to be healthy.

A few of their novel suggestions include: Plant some herbs…sing in the shower…eat slowly and buy a smaller plate.

Large group of people packing boxes

Santa’s helpers make shopping easy for Vets.

Volunteers: “Holiday cheer is just good medicine!”

A very unique gift shop at the Dallas VA Medical Center has been around for more than 20 years and takes most Veterans totally by surprise when they hear about it. They thought their holiday was ruined by being in the hospital and didn’t see any way to get gifts for their family. But Santa’s elves, VA North Texas volunteers that is, take care of everything!

Santa’s helpers make shopping easy for Vets.

Every year, around holiday time, VA North Texas Voluntary Service and local Veterans Service Organizations collect items for the holiday gift shop anticipating being Santa’s helper for Veterans in the hospital who can’t stop at the mall and shop.

These great volunteers believe that gift giving lets Veterans know VA cares for them and they are not forgotten during their hospital stay during the holidays.

Children and elderly man enjoy holiday cookies.

Children from St. Mary’s School in Cheyenne, Wyo., share holiday jokes and a cookie with CLC resident and WWII Veteran Mr. Oline.

As holiday music floated through the halls and decorations began to appear on the walls, the clock struck five and it was declared “Happy Hour” in the Cheyenne VA’s Community Living Center (CLC).

VA staff and volunteers prepared an assortment of non-alcoholic libations, sparkling water, soft drinks and juices, for residents. This event was organized to provide a social activity reminiscent of times before admission to a long term care setting.

“Y’all do a lot of outstanding things for the Veterans here!”

During the “Happy Hour,” one nursing assistant who was doubling as the “bar-keep” was asked by a resident, “Do you deliver?” which was followed by the response, “Of course!“ The resident went on to say, “Y’all do a lot of outstanding things for the Veterans here. The activities calendar is always filled with happenings and going-ons.”

As it got closer to the dinner hour, the room began to fill and drink orders poured in. Everyone that was able had something to drink and a snack delivered to their table. The lively atmosphere was brisk with orders for refills and jokes about their beverages of choice in earlier days.

Kindergarten Kids Serenade Vets

In early December, members of the Paralyzed Veterans Association (PVA)Mountain States Chapter held the first official holiday party of the season with VA residents.

The festivities were complimented by 31 lovely singing voices from St. Mary’s Catholic School kindergarten. The gleeful students paraded into the CLC complete with halos, angel wings, antlers, red noses and other lyrical props. The energetic children sang for nearly an hour, then shared cookies and laughter with PVA Auxiliary Volunteers, Veterans and VA staff.

One resident remarked at the sight of the assembled children, “Oh, look at the cute kids caroling in the CLC.” And as the children filed out of the dining room, a teacher said that “the kids were excited to come and sing for the service members who fought for us and kept us safe.”

Residents in the Cheyenne VAMC’s CLC also enjoyed a musical performance by the U.S. Air Force Heartland of America Band.

Home-like Environment

Cultural transformation is about evolving from an institutionalized long term care setting to an environment that is lively and reminiscent of home. Every day at the Cheyenne VA, the staff strives to create a more home-like environment. Socializing and enjoying “happy hours” with old friends or new ones is something service members regularly enjoyed and participated in while on active duty. After military discharge and into the autumn years of one’s life, there are good reasons why these important social activities should continue to take place.

Events like this represent the best of the holiday season and success in transforming a long-term care setting into a warm, lively environment and filled with therapeutic activities.

And fortunately for residents in Cheyenne VA’s CLC, efforts to promote a non-institutional atmosphere in the CLC are fostered by the generosity and eagerness of volunteers. This broad group includes individuals from an engaged community as well as the highly supportive service organizations selflessly sharing their time, talents and energy.