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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm responding to the recent letters from caregivers suggesting that conversations with nursing home staff be recorded in a notebook -- and for visitors to pin "happy" pictures on bulletin boards for patients to enjoy in their room. We in the nursing home industry welcome the input from the loved ones of our residents.

I offer further hints to enhance the quality of life for nursing home residents:

Volunteer your time at a nursing home. Staff can always use help with group activities such as bingo, arts and crafts, dominoes or checkers. Many ladies love having their fingernails polished or to go out shopping for personal items, cards and stamps. Nursing home rates are comparable to moderately priced hotels. It is not economically feasible for our nursing staff to provide all meals, housekeeping and laundry services, twice daily activities and round-the-clock nursing, and also be able to provide all of the extra activities our residents would enjoy.

I hope when visitors to nursing homes are making notes of their concerns, they will also note the good things that go on in nursing homes and compliment the administrators and staff. -- CINDY OWEN, DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL SERVICES, SOUTHBROOK HEALTHCARE, ARDMORE, OKLA.

DEAR CINDY: You're absolutely right. People need to feel appreciated, and a compliment goes a long way. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: During my mother's fight with breast cancer, she was in and out of hospitals. My sister made a 3-by-4-foot collage of old photographs of family, friends and places that Mom loved to visit. This collage went with her from hospital room to hospital room for the duration of her illness. It served to remind everyone that Mom was once a vibrant lady with a rich, full life who was loved by all the people pictured. She was cheered by it, and it served to "humanize" her to the myriad of doctors, nurses, aides and technicians who treated her.

Now that Mom is gone, the collage is hung in a prominent place in our family home. It serves as a constant reminder of now much we love and miss her. -- DAVE IN OHIO

DEAR DAVE: I'm sure your sister's masterpiece is a treasure, and will continue to be considered so by future generations.

DEAR ABBY: Please ask your readers to rethink hosting big parties for those celebrating the "big" birthdays -- 90, 95, 100, etc. Rather than one overwhelming afternoon (when visitors ask the honoree, "Do you know who I am?"), it makes more sense to arrange a visiting schedule over several weeks or months.

Recently a woman who turned 100 was thrown a large party with more than 100 guests. By the time they left, she was exhausted and tearful. It turns out, she rarely had visitors. Visits should be spaced out so that loved ones know they are loved all year. -- NICOLE IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR NICOLE: Hear, hear!

DEAR ABBY: When people buy clothing for patients, they should remember that the person may no longer be able to dress him- or herself or move their limbs. Therefore, it is wise to buy clothing a little larger than you normally would. One woman I know buys her cousin housedresses, then cuts them up the back, hems the sides and makes ties at the neck. When the attendants dress her, there is no trouble, no pain -- and she looks adorable. -- JANET IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR JANET: Thank you for your helpful suggestion. Clothing for people in home health care or in nursing homes can also be ordered by catalog. One company that creates this specialized line of clothing is Buck & Buck Designs. It offers clothes for both men and women that may be ordered online at www.buckandbuck.com or by calling toll-free 1-800-458-0600.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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