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A 'Bittersweet' Christmas For A Nursing Home in Hanover Battling COVID Outbreak

A typical Christmas celebration at Hanover Terrace Health and Rehabilitation includes lots of carolers, a buffet, and a hug-filled holiday party.

But because of the pandemic, Christmas celebrations will be quieter this year.

COVID-19 has hit New Hampshire nursing homes hard over the course of the pandemic. Hanover Terrace is no exception. It's been battling a COVID outbreak since Thanksgiving: Nearly 100 residents and staff were infected, and at least six residents have died.

In the wake of the outbreak, there’s been an outpouring of support for residents and staff. School kids wrote hundreds of cards and put goodie bags together. The local fire department cleared ice dams from the building to make window visits easier.

“To see our residents faces when they get these extra gifts of support and cards, it’s a connection to the outside world," said Martha Ilsley, the nursing home’s administrator. “Just knowing everyone is there for them has made a really big difference.”

She says this year’s Christmas season is bittersweet. But despite not having groups come in to sing carols or families to sit with their loved ones, she says she feels the spirit of the season is present.

“We’re living the true meaning of Christmas this year," she said. "It’s all about each other, teamwork, residents, families, friends. Our hearts, our thoughts, they’re are all there. Even if it’s from a distance."

Residents will have their choice of beef tenderloin, seafood newburg, and scallops wrapped in bacon for Christmas dinner.  

Ilsley says there is one piece of news that’s giving her a sense of hope: Hanover Terrace will begin COVID-19 vaccinations this Sunday.

Daniela is an editor in NHPR's newsroom. She leads NHPR's Spanish language news initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? and the station's climate change reporting project, By Degrees. You can email her at

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