Karen Weeks, guest blogger
Make your Elder's Holiday Special
Updated: Dec 6, 2019
Our desire is to provide a way for seniors to enjoy the holidays, even if their health conditions and living arrangements make it challenging. As the holiday season ramps up, it’s important to remember that your presence and attention are the most valuable gifts you can give. That, and helping your elders feel included in whatever ways they can participate.
Although most of us have happy memories of holiday celebrations from when we were young, this time of year can be stressful.
There are pervasive societal expectations of holiday perfection regardless of our circumstances. Yet, that is rarely possible. For instance, our elders used to be in charge of making the holidays merry while the young ones were the focus. Now, as our elders age and sometimes decline, the holiday responsibilities increasingly fall on us. It may seem like more to do for us, but consider the loss to your elder family members as they let go of holiday events for which they are remembered.
Here is our 10 tips to ease the holiday stress with your loved ones.
1. Include younger generations in holiday rituals. Time shared between different generations is very special, so encourage your children and parents to bake treats, look at pictures, sing Christmas carols, or partake in holiday crafts together. Memories of time spent with elderly grandparents often become the happiest memories of childhood.
2. Play holiday music while you decorate to set a festive mood. Prepare mulled cider, eggnog, or hot chocolate to serve to your loved one while you trim the tree. Even small gestures that trigger fond memories can lift one’s holiday spirit.
3. Use your elders’ treasured holiday decorations. Talk about each piece as you pull it out of storage. If they cannot actively participate in decorating their home, ask what they envision the finished product will look like and where they’d prefer certain pieces to be placed. This is especially important if your loved one spends most of their time in a certain area of the house. Prioritize their favorite items by putting them where they can be seen and enjoyed the most.
4. Ask if they need help with writing and sending holiday cards or other rituals. You can help them draft a short message inside the cards, help stamp and address envelopes, and drop the greetings off at the post office. While this may seem mundane, you’re both spending quality time together. You’re also helping them stay connected with other family and friends, which can become more challenging with age. Be on the lookout for cards, phone calls, and other correspondence they receive during the holidays. For example, if someone’s spouse has died or a friend is very ill. Perhaps someone else has moved to a nursing home and is not adjusting well. There’s no obligation to protect an elder from this reality, but it is important to inquire about their friends.
5. Be on the lookout for cards, phone calls, and other correspondence they receive during the holidays. For example, if someone’s spouse has died or a friend is very ill. Perhaps someone else has moved to a nursing home and is not adjusting well. There’s no obligation to protect an elder from this reality, but it is important to inquire about their friends.
--Keep an eye out for signs of depression and be sure to offer support if there’s anything weighing on their mind. If they wish to attend a funeral or visit a friend, do what you can to help them achieve this; support through this time is crucial. Use Video Caring to help your elders keep in touch with their friends and other family members.
6. If possible, host the holiday meals at your home or plan to bring the celebration to your elders. Reducing their workload can help them better appreciate these get-togethers.
Instead of making the whole meal from scratch, consider making only a couple of favorite homemade recipes and using store-bought or pre-made dishes to round out the meal. Opting for a potluck-style family meal and have leftovers from the meals if they enjoy that.
7. If they can go out and shop for holiday gifts, offer to accompany them. If their abilities are limited, offer to shop for them instead or help them search for and order gifts online. Once your shopping is complete, you can wrap presents together.
8. Ask what they look forward to most each holiday season and try to make those few things happen to the best of your ability. If your elder family members live away from where you are, communicate with caregivers to ensure input into arranging a loving holiday experience for everyone.
9. Encourage your elders to tell stories of the past. Sharing family history is a priceless pastime, but there’s something about passing on memories during the holidays that really brings families together.
10. If your aging loved one lives with you, be mindful not to treat them as a guest. Ask for help in any way they can provide it, while carefully accounting for their limitations. You don’t want to make them feel inept, but you do want to offer them the chance to participate! The most important thing is spending time with your entire family.
Make the new memories and reduce your holiday stress!
Amazing Grace Care- We Care for you!
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