Dr. El

I know, I know, that’s not how the word is pronounced. But as soon as I read about the Danish concept of coziness, I got that darn Will Smith song (“Gettin Jiggy With It”) in my head and I can’t get it out. 

Hygge (actually pronounced “hyoo-guh”) refers to the creation of a comforting, convivial environment. Think hot cocoa, warm blankets and crackling fireplaces, with loved ones. 

It sounds so charming that I resolved to apply hygge to an upcoming vacation. I decided to mix local sightseeing with a few days saved for the pleasures of cooking, reading a book and watching movies with an occasional bowl of popcorn under a comforter with my family. And, of course, I considered how the idea could be applied to long-term care facilities.

Nursing homes, which could generally do with an increased focus on “home” over “nursing,” have many reasons and opportunities to add some hygge. 

First and foremost is the chance to “flip the script” about being in a confined environment. Residents who have infrequent opportunities to get outside under the best of circumstances and even fewer chances during inclement weather, often feel depressed or resentful regarding their confinement. Practicing hygge offers a mental shift from a perception of restriction to one of comfort. 

Holiday hygge

During the holidays, residents may observe peers going out for day passes and family members arriving for visits. For those without passes or visitors, using hygge concepts can ease their emotional pain in a kind, simple manner that emphasizes their belonging to a group. 

While holiday activities such as seasonal movies and Christmas caroling are wonderful, a hygge approach would suggest adding periods of quieter comforts such as lap blankets, a fireplace video and a story read aloud. Some people might enjoy crocheting or drawing during this communal activity. If the kitchen sent up a batch of warm cookies, so much the better.

Staff hygge

Residents may not be the only ones less-than-thrilled about being at the facility on a holiday. While many staff members consider their LTC jobs a calling and are gracious about being of service to elders on Christmas or New Year’s Eve, others may be disgruntled with the holiday shift and may “leak” their emotions to their charges. 

A hygge approach can soften staff resentment. Surprise workers with a round of hot cocoa or send Mrs. Claus or an Elf to offer five-minute shoulder massages. Dedicate a soothing song on the overhead paging system to the staff members on duty. Small gestures of acknowledgement can make a big difference in the attitude of your team.

Hot hygge

Hygge comes from a cold climate, but the notion of comfort and togetherness applies in warmer climes too. When the blazing heat makes it impossible for residents to go outside, lemonade, an ocean video and a seafaring story can come to the rescue. 

Personal hygge

Given the stresses of the industry and the times, we could all use a little more comfort in our lives. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with social obligations, end-of-the-year tasks, regulatory compliance and the like, a cozy stay-at-home day might be exactly what’s needed to help restore your equilibrium. And no, you’re not being lazy, you’re hard at work on the practice of hygge.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an Award of Excellence winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is a Bronze Medalist for Best Blog in the American Society of Business Publication Editors national competition and a Gold Medalist in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category in their Midwest Regional competition. To contact her for speaking engagements and/or content writing, visit her award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com or her new website at EleanorFeldmanBarbera.com.