The holiday season is a joyous time for most to share the delights of family life and friendships.
Unfortunately, many older adults may find the holidays hectic, confusing, and even depressing, depending on their mental or physical conditions.
With all the “hustle and bustle” of the season, remember to be sensitive and loving. It is always best to plan for these occasions.
The good news is that everyone can help to make sure your loved ones enjoy the holidays by doing the following:
1. Take a stroll down memory lane. Many seniors enjoy speaking to their families about their previous experiences and memories. Younger family members and friends love to hear about how grandmother/grandfather lived her/his life “when I was your age.”. We suggest using pictures, videos, and even music to help stimulate their memories and share their experiences.
- For example – Create a collage of old photos in a Memory Book. This is a great activity for the family and gets everyone involved. Bring over some joyous Holiday music and have fun singing along.
2. Plan a break. Most seniors are not used to the commotion and noise from youngster visiting during the holidays. Make sure to keep an eye on them. Escort mom/dad to a quiet place for a few minutes so they can take a break. Use this time to talk to them and perhaps encourage them to have a one-on-one conversation with a family member.
- For example – Bring your loved-one to a community library or a quiet café to enjoy a nice warm treat.
3. Remove any obstacles. If the Holiday party is held in the home of an older person with memory impairment or behavioral problems, please don’t rearrange the furniture. This could be a source of confusion and anxiety. If the gathering is in a place unfamiliar to an older person, remove slippery rugs and other items that could cause them to trip and fall.
- For example – Do not move your seniors couch on the opposite side of the room. Try to keep things where they have always been.
4. Be inclusive. Include everyone in holiday meal preparations. Split-up holiday tasks to make sure everyone stays involved. Older adults with physical limitations can still be included in kitchen activities by asking them to do simple tasks.
- For example – folding napkins, reading holiday cards, assisting with place settings or arranging flowers are some of the helpful and fun ways to participate during the holidays.
5. New memories. Help your loved ones create new memories this holiday season.\
- For example – Take them window shopping, take a drive through the neighborhood to look at holiday decorations and lights, and even inviting them over to help decorate the tree.
6. Be thoughtful and understanding. Many seniors will experience memory loss, so make sure to keep that in mind when you are telling a story and they find it hard to remember. If your family member seems not to remember an experience, then refresh everyone’s memory and don’t single them out for not remembering a past event.
- For example – If your family member seems not to remember an experience, then refresh everyone’s memory and don’t single them out for not remembering a past event.
7. Check on them. Connecting with your loved ones is important during the holiday season. If your senior family member lives alone, check on them and make sure to include them in all your holiday events. Always keep a positive attitude when you are around them and make sure to reassure them how important they are to you and the entire family.
- For example – Call or stop in for a couple minutes just to see if they need any groceries or see what time you will pick them up for the holiday festivities.
8. Stay on the sunny side. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD is usually referred to as winter depression which can be provoked by the shortage of sunlight. It is important to make sure your loved ones stay active and complete activities in the daylight.
- For example – If your loved one suffers from SAD make sure to take them on daily walks in the sunlight or play a game with them during the daytime.
9. Monitor medications and alcohol. Make sure to help your loved ones take their medications on their regular schedule during the holidays. During the holiday season, it can be easy to forget to take medications. Also, pay attention to their alcohol consumption during the holiday parties. Alcohol can provoke inappropriate behavior, interfere with medications, and make depression worse.
- For example – Set a reminder on your cell phone for the times your loved one takes their medication. If you notice your loved one consuming a large amount of alcohol, recommend the lemon water you made or “mock-tail”.
Hopefully, the facts above will help you and your loved ones this holiday season. The holidays can be so hectic and busy it can be very easy to forget about the needs of the senior family members in our lives. Remember it is important to spend as much time as possible with them and consider their feelings. Sometimes the holidays can be too much for your loved ones and remember to be sensitive and understanding of their situations.