Tips to Help your Elderly Parents Enjoy the Holidays
The holidays are usually happy times, with families getting together and memories being made. This includes spending time with our elderly parents. Unfortunately, the reality is that many elderly people can feel isolated and lonely and have an especially hard time with the holiday season. They may have experienced the loss of a spouse or friend over the year, had to move out of their home or had to move a spouse into a home. Many factors can change the way they are celebrating the holidays now, as opposed the way it was in the past. This season can bring this isolation and feeling of loneliness to a head. You, as the adult child of a parent who may seem depressed during the holidays, can do a lot to help.
Read our tips to help your elderly parents enjoy the holidays.
- Make sure they know how important they are to your family. Remind them how important they are as a part of your holiday celebration and that of the entire family. Be mindful to be as sincere as possible and do not act out of duty. You are there to reconnect with them and feel their love. See each moment that you get to spend with your elderly loved one as a blessing and make sure they feel how much you love them. This is especially true during the holiday season as we reflect on the many traditions and memories the holiday seasons have brought our families.
- Reminisce with them about past holidays celebrations and traditions. This is the perfect time to bring out the old photo albums or watch old family movies. Retell old family stories from holidays past. This is especially important for our elderly parents. Older people often lose what has defined them: family, spouses, friends, careers, and their homes. They need to remember who they were to help define who they are today. It is a way to affirm who they are, what they’ve accomplished in their lives, and a chance to relive happy times. For those who suffer with dementia, it is a way to talk easily about things they do remember.
- Help them decorate their home or room, if living in a senior facility. Use your parent’s favorite personal holiday decorations. If they cannot be active in decorating their home, ask questions. Where would they like the ornaments placed? This is especially important if the person now primarily resides in his or her recliner. Put favorite items where they can easily be seen and enjoyed the most. Bring something with the scent of balsam so they can enjoy the smell of Christmas.
- If this is the first holiday season that your parent is celebrating the holidays after a loss or moving to a senior facility, adjust expectations. Things will be different. You may need to adjust timing. Have events earlier in the day to avoid evening confusion. A typical holiday setting with all of the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. It may be necessary to allow for some breaks so your loved one can rest in a quiet area away from noise and crowds.
- Eating is a big part of the holiday celebration. Make their holiday dinner special. Whether your parents are at home or in a senior facility, try to make the table festive. Bring traditional baked goods or treats. Cook their favorite dish or a traditional dish your always have at your holiday celebration. If your senior loved one is fond of cooking and is known for a specific dish, pay them a tribute by cooking this dish for them and bringing it for everyone to enjoy. If the senior facility will permit, you might also want to cook it with them during your visit and make this activity a great bonding moment for you and your senior!
Your time is the most valuable gift you can give your elderly parents during this holiday season. Do what you can without stressing yourself beyond your limits. These tips will help your elderly parents enjoy the holidays. With a little pre-planning and tweaking of the holiday traditions, your parents can be included in your holiday activities and special events. You can read more tips on helping your loved one manage holiday stress here.