Visit a Nursing Home Week set for Dec. 24-31COLUMBUS -- Once again this holiday season, Governor Ted Strickland, the Ohio Department of Aging and the Office of the State Long-term Care Ombudsman call on all Ohioans to visit a nursing home and share the spirit of the season with its residents during Visit a Nursing Home Week, Dec. 24-31. The observance also is a time for individuals to become more involved in the care a loved one or others receive and join facilities as they provide excellent care for all residents.The department created Visit a Nursing Home Week to encourage people to look at nursing home residents not as patients with conditions that need care, but as individuals with thoughts and feelings, some of them isolated from the ones they love, who might appreciate some fellowship, particularly during the holidays. With the help of the Office of the State Long-term Care Ombudsman, the department also encourages facilities to design special events during the week to welcome visitors."Many nursing home residents have family and friends who visit them regularly," said Strickland. "Others seldom have visitors and some have no one to visit them. Visitors help residents stay connected to the world around them and give them a sense of friendship and belonging. And that's why this week is so important.""The holidays often remind us of the importance of gathering in each other's homes and spending time with those we love and care about," said Barbara E. Riley, director of the department. "For about 84,000 Ohioans, 'home' is a nursing facility, and these folks have just as much right to visitors as you and I.""Every visitor to one of Ohio's nearly 1,000 nursing homes can support excellent care by speaking up for their loved ones. We encourage everyone -- visitors, staff members and residents -- to become involved in ensuring quality care in all nursing homes," added Beverley Laubert, the State Long-term Care Ombudsman. "As you share your celebrations and merriment with a loved one in a facility, please consider becoming an advocate for all the residents of that home."Contact your local nursing homes to see if they are planning holiday events, or join with your church, school or civic organizations to plan a visit. Caroling, sharing treats and cards, putting on a holiday program and creating artwork for the facility are all great activities. Before you drop in, check with the facility to find out what their visiting hours are, if they have any restrictions on gifts or treats and if children or pets are welcome.To find facilities in your area to visit, use the Long-term Care Consumer Guide (www.ltcohio.org), which contains regulatory information, satisfaction ratings and more.Even if you can't visit a nursing home, you can still make a difference by joining the national Advancing Excellence campaign (www.nhqualitycampaign.org). This initiative of long-term care providers, consumers, advocates, nursing home practitioners, government agencies and more helps nursing homes make a difference in the lives of residents and staff. Participants receive regular updates, information about quality improvement efforts and more.