Caregiver Tips for a Successful Holiday Season with Aging Loved Ones
While the holidays are typically associated with good cheer, they can also be stressful -- particularly for older seniors and the people who care for them. Let’s count down four tips designed to help caregivers and their loved ones embrace the spirit of the season and enjoy the true meaning of “Happy Holidays.”
1. Slow Down
Between all of the extra items on your to-do list between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, things can quickly turn frenetic. While you may be consumed by thoughts of cooking, shopping, wrapping, and sending out holiday cards, this stress can quickly carry over to your aging loved ones.
When visiting with your loved one, commit to stepping away from the hustle and bustle and enjoying a quiet moment together. Remember: quality is more important than quantity. If your seasonal commitments mean a shorter visit than usual, let go of your guilt and accept that cutting back may actually lead to more meaningful interactions.
What does "slowing down" mean? Even though you may have a million things to do, make sure your stress doesn't affect your loved one. It's always important, but especially important during the holidays, to feel valued and loved. This may be the time your loved one feels extra lonely because their family is too busy preparing for the holidays. Make time for Mom or Dad. Visit them for a meal, help them write their Christmas cards out, play a game together or even just chat in the living room. In such a busy time, it's important to take a deep breath, remember who started your traditions in the first place, and take a bit of time to unwind with your loved one.
2. Look to the Past
While the holidays are all about looking forward for kids, they represent something different for many older adults. Sharing stories, memories and photographs from the past is a simple yet significant way to spend family time together. While feelings of grief and loss are common, focusing on positive, happy memories can help seniors reconnect with the joys of the season.
Do you have a photo album or home videos that your Mom or Dad hasn't seen in awhile? Show it to them. It's a great way to reminisce on the past. Bring the grandkids and enjoy a trip down memory lane. You'll also get their mind working as memories become fresh in their thoughts, which is always good!
3. Make New Memories
While your aging loved one may no longer be able to participate in your usual traditions, this doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy starting some new ones that are within his capabilities. From baking and decorating to sending out cards together, these activities represent a chance to reinforce your bond while sharing in seasonal cheer.
Looking for meaningful ways you can spend the holidays with your aging loved one? Read our eBook, "82 Meaningful Visits" to gather some great ideas on how to spend quality time.
Here are some of our favorite ideas:
- Does your parent have a favorite holiday movie or album? If so, watching or listening together every year is a terrific, stress-free activity which can quickly become a new tradition.
- What better way to feel a sense of purpose than volunteering? And what better time to give back than the holidays? Pick a cause that's important to both of you and research a local place to volunteer.
- Record an interview. Want to make sure you always remember the stories from Mom or Dad? Record them! Set up your mobile phone or camera and host a fun interview, highlighting stories and old memories.
- Fill out a family tree. People don't realize how important this is. Already have a family tree? Cross check it with your parent's recollection, making sure everything looks alright. This is always a great way to encourage your loved one to tell family stories.
- Get some exercise! It would be great to go for a walk and get some fresh air. However, if it's too cold, consider a gym or wellness center. Often times, you can do a free trial of the gym and go together. If it's not free, the charges will be minimal. If you can't spend any money, consider following a YouTube workout video from your phone or computer. Of course, make sure with a doctor that your loved one can handle the exercise.
- Ask for help on homework. Are you or a child in school? Ask for help with math, English, etc. This will give grandma or grandpa a sense of purpose, challenge their mind and can help you get your homework done!
- Cooking! Talk it over and pick a favorite meal from your childhood. Then, gather the recipes and join your loved one for a cooking/baking session.
- More suggestions available here.....
4. Know Their Needs
Many seniors are unable or uncomfortable admitting their needs during the holidays. Keeping open lines of communication can help you better understand your loved one’s feelings in order to accommodate them in the most effective way. Loss of hearing, vision and mobility can all lead to setbacks during the holidays. Maintaining sensitivity to your loved one’s limitations and awareness about his surroundings can ensure that he or she stays within their comfort zone.
For example, if the whole family is gathering together for an afternoon, check in with your loved one and see how they're doing. Maybe they should rest instead of staying for dinner too, so they will be refreshed for the next day's activities. They may say they're OK, but observe their interactions and body language to make sure they actually are.
While it’s easy to lose track of usual routines during this busy time of year, making sure your loved one stays well-rested and hydrated is an important part of ensuring their ongoing health and wellbeing.
The holidays are a very busy and potentially stressful time. However, caregivers can use these techniques to hopefully minimize stress and maximize enjoyment -- both for themselves and for their aging loved ones.
- While your loved one’s abilities may have changed, his ability to share in the joys of the season has not.
- By keeping your loved one’s needs and feelings at the forefront of your holiday planning, you can help him cope with everything from grief over lost loved ones to anxiety about unfamiliar environments.
- Accepting that neither you nor your aging loved one can do everything is an important part of letting go of guilt and enjoying your time together.
About Chelsea Sayegh
I started working as a Marketing Coordinator for United Methodist Homes in October of 2016. I work on public relations, website management and community planning for their award winning independent and assisted living communities. As a graduate of Ursinus College with a degree in Media and Communications and a passion for serving nonprofits, United Methodist Homes has become my home away from home. I spend my days working in a community filled with smiling faces, helpful hands and wonderful residents. I have a passion for assisting seniors and take great pride in being able to promote a company with such a positive mission and values. As an individual committed to learning and growing, I have jumped right into this exciting career!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.