How to Quickly Decorate An Assisted Living, Nursing Home or Hospital Room

How to invite healing joy into your senior’s room

Does your senior’s nursing home room feel depressing? Did the balloons deflate and the flowers die after a day in the hospital? Does their room in the assisted living facility still look kind of generic even after adding a few photos on the bedside table?

If you feel that way walking in, think how they feel living there.

Sometimes we hesitate to decorate, giving these excuses:
  • My senior won’t be in this room very long.
  • The facility restricts what we add to the walls or room.
  • I don’t want personal items to get in the way of medical staff and equipment.

Overcome your internal excuses and create an atmosphere for healing and joy, even in a nursing home or assisted living facility!

Choose one of these simple products and ideas to transform your senior’s room.

  1. Removable “sweet dreams” decal on the wall in front of the bed wishes them good night
  2. Huge paper flowers/decals or removable potted plant decals (these don’t need water) fill a space
  3. Make a custom placemat with photos of people they love to use on a tray or at the table 
  4. Inspire conversation with this “Who I Am” poster and hang it with damage-free wall clips
  5. Wall mounted or desktop adjustable sunlight lamp may improve the mood
  6. Have a photo blanket made, even just lap size
  7. Put up a suction cup window-mounted outside bird feeder
  8. Put up sparkle lights around a window or door frame
  9. Set up a digital picture frame with rotating pictures 
  10. A diffuser with essential oils offers aromatherapy and a warm light. (Not recommended for shared room situations.) 
  11. Tack a beautiful  poster on the ceiling above their bed. This scene makes you feel as though you are laying in a forest looking up through the trees on a sunny day.
  12. Hanging a quilt on a wall can fill a big blank space and helps create a cozy atmosphere. These quilt hangers attach with removable adhesive strips
  13. The management of a real fish tank is too much, but can be relaxing, so why not try a lamp/virtual ocean fish tank?
  14. This temporary stick-on wall quote is a reminder to spread joy
  15.  Window suction plant pot brings the outside in
  16.  Rugs are trip hazards, but these peel and stick tiles can look like a rug.
Consider some of the benefits of temporary decorating:
  • Gives you something to do “together.” Bring some paint chips and ask which colors they like. Psychology Today says, “Some colors, like shades of yellow, are like the sunshine. They can boost one’s mood and create a sense of optimism. Shades of blue can be calming. Others, like red or a secondary color such as orange, can be jarring.” Use those colors as you choose decorations. Or ask them which quote they like better for their temporary decal or about their favorite pictures for the lap blanket.
  • Becomes a conversation starter for staff or visitors.
  • Creates a welcoming atmosphere. If the decor makes staff and visitors smile, that brings more joy to your senior’s room.

Decorating your senior’s room fills it with personalized brightness and joy. Even if you just choose one of the items above, it can have a compounding effect, which is needed in a nursing home, hospital or assisted living facility.

Want other gift ideas for your senior? Check out these 7 thoughtful presents.

Debbie McDonald is the Founder of Ways & Wane, an online platform that helps you help your aging parent. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

How to Help Your Senior Dress with Success: These Shoes Won’t Let Me In!

Age-related health challenges like arthritis and reduced mobility mean that many seniors struggle with getting dressed.

Adapting your senior’s clothing for their current capabilities creates a win-win situation. The ability to dress themselves reduces frustration, helps maintain their independence and gives them a sense of control.

senior in assisted living trying to get shoe on
Surprising Options

The world of adaptive clothing offers things like:

  • Pants with side zippers which are easier to use than front zippers
  • Magnetic belt buckles 
  • Front-closure bras
  • Extra wide slippers that velcro completely open/shut, accommodating swollen feet
  • Socks with extra wide tops are easier to put on
  • T-shirts that snap in the back so they are put on from the front without arms being having to be raised above the head
  • Snap back duster-style dresses, eliminate the challenges pants can pose
  • Non-binding elastic waistbands on roomy and stretchy pants allow for fewer adjustments after transfers
  • Wheelchair pants with discreet flaps on the backside make bathroom trips and incontinence easier to manage
  • A wheelchair blanket that snaps to the arm handles so it won’t slip off
Adaptive Clothing Companies

Several companies specialize in adaptive clothing:
1. Canadian-based Silverts allows you to shop based on your senior’s specific condition and has a wide range of colors and patterns.
2. Buck and Buck, a 40+ year old U.S. based company, features items with simple, basic styling.


Alternatively, a tailor or alterations person (usually drycleaners have this service) modifies your senior’s current clothes. For example, buttons become permanently sewn to the outside of a shirt/pants and velcro attachments are hidden right behind them.

Altering existing clothes proved the best option for my dad. He donned the same kind of button-up shirt for 40 years and didn’t like pullover shirts. Adapting his favorite shirts so that he could velcro the buttons maintained his independence and made him feel “like himself.”

If you are up for a simple sewing adventure or have a friend who is, here’s a tutorial showing how to replace buttons with velcro. 

Simple Solutions

Lastly, these 3 tips help a senior get dressed by themselves:

  1. A dressing stick makes putting on shoes, socks, shirts and pants less of a struggle.
  2. A visit from an occupational therapist maximizes your senior’s current strengths and abilities.
  3. A paperclip looped into the hole in a zipper handle makes it much easier to grasp and pull.May your new year be filled with joy, your zippers zipped and your velcro firmly attached!

Eight Caregiver Gifts that Cost Little But Make an Impact

Show Your Immense Gratitude

It can be complicated to say thank you to caregivers who see your senior at their most vulnerable, possibly even at their worst whether in an assisted living facility, nursing home or at home. 

They carry on with diligent care despite the circumstances or challenges.
They do what you cannot.
They are helping you honor your senior through this season.
They give so much!
How can you thank them?

Whether your senior lives in an assisted living facility, a nursing home, a small adult family home or is at home with care help, I have several thoughtful gift ideas for you to give your senior’s caregivers.

Three group gift ideas
Some assisted living facilities or nursing homes have a policy that prevents individual staff members from accepting personal gifts. However, you can give a gift to the staff as a whole. If that’s your situation, consider these group gift ideas. (Packaged separately, each of these gifts provides minimal contact.)

  1. For about $23 you can send a box of 20 healthy snacks 
  2. A beautifully packaged box of pears from Harry & David is a stylish surprise
  3. One dozen holiday bakery cupcakes (packaged separately) would be a fun treat 

Five individual gift ideas
For smaller facilities, like adult family homes or individual caregivers, you have more options:

  1. A candle and a handwritten note that says: “What you do matters, thank you!”
  2. Some fun, nurse-themed socks.
  3. A card & little, framed poem that says thank you.
  4. A coupon to a food delivery service like Uber Eats or Grubhub would allow them to have a meal without having to cook or go out to pick it up.
  5. A gift card to a coffee/tea shop would surely be put to good use!

Find other gift ideas by reading Seven Fun Gift Ideas for the Senior Who Doesn’t Need Anything. Whatever you do, the most impactful gift is likely going to be the note you add expressing your heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. Be more than generous with your words; they will soak in and encourage your caregiver in the sweetest of ways.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

The ONE Local Secret to Finding In-Home Care

nursing home

Who wants to be in a nursing home or assisted living facility? My dad certainly didn’t. 

But I couldn’t quite figure out how to manage and afford the care that he would need at home. At the time, I couldn’t quit my job to provide that care myself. Maybe I should have. But that’s another story.

When searching online, it is hard to find an unbiased source. It turns out that it may have been more possible than I imagined to find home health care with the community resources already around me. Drumroll, please . . . this is the one unexpected source of local homecare referrals, even in these crazy times. 

Call your local hospital and nursing home social workers.

Ask them for homecare referrals—even if your senior is not in the facility currently. Sounds simple, right? But it’s a gem.

Social workers can provide the following facilities:

  • A referral for home health services like physical therapy (covered by Medicare for a limited time.)
  • A referral for a homemaker evaluation. The agency will send someone to your senior’s home to discuss services that are needed. After an authorized agency makes their free evaluation, your state may provide caregiving services at no cost. 
  • Their “preferred provider” list of caregivers (which you would pay for out-of-pocket.)

After narrowing your list, use Medicare’s checklist to interview each agency.
Their list includes questions like:

  • Do you have staff available at night and on weekends for emergencies?
  • Can you explain what my insurance will cover and what I must pay out-of-pocket?
  • Do you do background checks on all staff?

Also ask specifically about the sanitation and protection protocols they use during COVID-19.

Blessings as you help you senior well in these challenging times.



5 Warning Signs that Your Parent Needs Assisted Living

looking for spoiled food in the refrigeratorHe careened around the grocery store aisles driving the scooter they provided. I followed, picking up fallen cans and apologizing to shoppers who jumped out of his way.

My 80-year-old father was a home chef who was thrilled to put the dinner of his choice in his basket: ribs, asparagus and potatoes.

Sadly, those same ribs, asparagus and potatoes were molding in his fridge two weeks later.

Why didn’t he cook them? This really struck me because he loved to cook. Looking back, there were many reasons that all came down to . . . he just needed more help.

I think too, he was pretending that he was more capable than he truly was. We didn’t know that in the next year he would develop dementia and live in a hospital ICU, a nursing home, an assisted living memory care unit and a senior group home.

Look for these warning signs in our own senior’s home. Your elderly mom or dad may need more help than they are letting on.


  • The yard or house is not maintained.

  • There’s nothing to eat in the house.

  • The fridge contains expired or spoiled food.

  • Potholders or pans contain burn marks or a burning stove is left unattended.

  • There are multiples of the same item–10 bottles of ketchup?

  • Your senior has traffic tickets or the car has dents.

  • The car’s warning lights are on–gas, oil, check engine.


  • Your senior stops doing the things they used to enjoy.

  • Your senior is spending days without leaving the house.

  • Your senior would benefit from someone checking on them every day.

  • Your senior complains of feeling lonely or abandoned when you are away.


  • Piles of mail in various places.

  • Unopened personal mail.

  • Increased thank you messages from charities.

  • Letters from banks or creditors.

  • The mail is unopened or bills are unpaid.

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  • Your senior is unsteady, wobbly, dizzy or very weak.

  • Your senior is looking unkempt, skipping showers, forgetting to shave.

  • Your senior has gained or lost weight, potentially having difficulty with cooking or shopping.

  • Your senior refuses to take medications or seek medical treatment.

  • Their personality has changed, become irritable or quiet.

  • To do lists that never seem to get done.

  • The house is overly cluttered.

  • Your senior is recovering more slowly from injuries or surgeries.


  • Your senior misses appointments, gets lost, forgets important information.

  • Your senior has difficulty performing familiar tasks.

  • Your senior substitutes unusual words

  • Your senior forgets recently learned information.

  • Your senior puts items in illogical places.

  • Your senior loses initiative and becomes passive or lethargic.

  • Your senior has trouble following directions.

Is it time to have a gentle conversation with your mom or dad about assisted living or in-home care?

Find templates and comparison tools for that housing or in-home help with the Digital Social Worker tool. It is full of curated links and to help you compare in-home care, a nursing home or assisted living options.

If you want the Warning Signs Checklist from above, download it here.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way as you help your senior in their waning phase of life.