Christmas dinners, parties with live bands, gift giving, caroling and opportunities for everyone to participate in and enjoy old-fashioned decorations are a part of Camelot holiday traditions. Year-round, Camelot goes the distance to make residents and their families feel at home — and the holidays are no exception.
“The community helps us by coming in each year, delivering gifts, dressing as Santa and Mrs. Claus,” said Lauren Grainier, an administrator at Camelot in Jennings, who has been with the company since 2009. “Our residents have so many opportunities to celebrate. We are always busy.”
According to Julie Pete, activities director at Camelot in Jennings, the facility’s social calendar in November and December includes a Thanksgiving potluck social with residents, as well as their loved ones. Volunteers and children from local schools also share in the holiday spirit by helping the residents create flower arrangements for the Thanksgiving tables, decorating the doors with Christmas wreaths and singing Christmas carols.
“People from the community come in and see that it’s a happy place,” said Pete, who has been with the company since 1992. “Everybody gets in the spirit and helps decorate the tree for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Despite the overall holiday cheer, some residents shy away from events. The Camelot staff encourages them to participate but also respects their space. Pete recalls a shy resident at the Jennings facility who spent Christmas at Camelot for the first time last year. The staff asked him to be Santa Claus at the party, and he ended up having a great time. This experience gave him the chance to interact with fellow residents in a fun and relaxed environment and opened him up to making new friends.
Burna Smith, a long-time resident of Camelot of Broussard Assisted Living, has adjusted her holiday traditions since moving in, though Christmas remains her favorite holiday. She spends her days beginning in November watching Christmas movies and decorating her table according to the holiday. Even if she misses some of the daily activities, Smith makes sure to join her fellow residents for the major holiday get-togethers.
Patricia Gaspard, the activity director at Camelot of Broussard Assisted Living, makes sure the holiday calendar is filled with something for everyone and finds that most residents and their families get involved in some way.
“They are bougie over here,” she laughs. “They don’t all always want to do everything, but most of them come to the Christmas parties. One year we had a huge turnout on the door-decorating contest. One participant’s whole family helped, and they went all out. They had a lot of fun, and she ended up winning the contest that year. You’d be surprised how competitive they get!”
In addition to decorations and the traditional dinners and parties, the Assisted Living facility takes outings to look at Christmas lights and has festive get-togethers throughout the holiday season. Gaspard is planning a nativity story night, complete with popcorn, and last year’s premiere ugly sweater party was such a hit, that she is bringing it back for her residents this year. The residents and their families love the diversity of activities available, and staff participation is high, in line with the family atmosphere created at Camelot facilities.
Eloise Verret, 95, has lived at Camelot of Broussard Assisted Living since the facility first opened. She used to enjoy bringing her family joy through her cooking. Holiday traditions have always been close to Verret’s heart, and she is making new memories at the place she calls her home away from home.
“I used to always make fruitcakes,” she said. “I would leave my house in Baldwin to get figs to make preserves. That’s what made my fruitcakes so good. Now my son has a fig tree to make preserves. I never liked fruitcakes, but my husband loved them. I made them for him.”
Verret no longer does the cooking, but she enjoys multiple holiday dinner parties. Thanksgiving is an especially fun celebration because her birthday always falls within the same week. This year, the Camelot Thanksgiving dinner took place on her birthday — and now she’s looking forward to Christmas!