The holidays, for many of us, mean fun get-togethers with friends and family. For our aging relatives, though especially if they live far away from family, the holidays can be lonely and fraught with despair. Holidays can also be confusing and stressful for our aging relatives who are suffering dementia or other physical and emotional conditions.
What can you do to help assure that the holidays are as wonderful as they can be for your aging loved ones? Here are some things to consider:
- Try and make it a point to either travel to your relatives’ home or have them come to spend time with you.
- When you get together, spend time strolling down memory lane. Your mom and dad may be sharing stories you have heard a hundred times, but those are the “good old days” for them and it’s a time when they felt happy and vibrant. Give them the opportunity to share memories.
- With aging relatives it’s necessary to plan further ahead than you may be accustomed to. If you’re going to travel or they are going to travel, make plans early and prepare for their arrival. Also, when you’re having your aging relatives visit remember that large gatherings can be outside of their normal daily routine and it could be confusing and overwhelming. Plan down time when they can simply rest and relax.
- Make certain your home is senior-friendly. Equip the bathroom with senior friendly bathtub grips. Make certain there are no trip or fall obstacles in the room they will be staying in or the hallways or other rooms in the home. Add automatic night lights that are motion activated so they are safe when they’re walking through an unfamiliar home.
- Create new memories and take a lot of photos. Make prints of the photographs and put them into an album for your loved ones to take home with them. You can get photos printed at many department or drug stores in less than one hour.
- Invite everyone to participate in preparing the menu. Be sure to make some family favorites and traditional foods as well as adding newer foods you may be more fond of.
- Be aware of the holiday blues. This is a time when many elderly individuals – or individuals of any age for that matter – find themselves missing loved ones and feeling more alone than usual especially when faced with happy families on the television. Stay in touch with them. Call them on the phone frequently. If they are tech savvy set up some video chats so you can see them “face to face.”
It’s not difficult to make the holidays shine for all family members, it just takes some planning and forethought to make the season bright.