Strategies for Making the Most of Our Family Holidays with Seniors

Many of us look forward all year long to spending time with our family members during the holiday season.

We want to relax and unwind, forget the pressures of work or other commitments and just enjoy the moments we have together.

Sometimes we plan special events and trips, remembering holidays of the past while making new memories to appreciate in the future.

When we have family members who are aging, the holidays may feel even more important due to a sense of urgency from knowing there many not be many more holidays to spend with them.

Making Holiday Time Special

  1. Schedule time with older family members in amounts of time that work into their schedule best. Would your senior prefer an afternoon visit when they have had time to get ready or one in the morning before they tire out? It is best to fit ourselves into their routine.
  2. Limit size of gatherings so senior loved ones don’t become overstimulated, especially those who can become agitated when there are many people and lots of conversation that seems too loud. This increased activity can overstimulate to the point of causing agitation and unusual behaviors in some adults especially those suffering from dementia.
  3. Take pictures and video during the visit to record the memories. You can then share these with other family members who might not be able to join the festivities as well as keep for the future.
  4. Bring with you any old photo albums or mementos to share with your senior loved ones. These can start the reminiscing and bring out the family stories. Not only can the entire family enjoy the stories but it can be a fun way for older adults to get valuable mental exercise. Don’t forget to create a collection of the new memories you make, maybe even leaving behind a digital picture frame or two of favorite photos for your senior loved one.
  5. Set aside some time when visiting senior loved ones’ homes for signs of neglect or a need to provide additional care options. Look for signs of problems such as spoiled food in the refrigerator, unkempt personal care, unpaid bills or unopened mail, extreme clutter, or unsafe areas in the home requiring maintenance. Be sure to check out their vehicle for signs of accidents that might mean they are no longer able to drive safely.
  6. Bring the family together to discuss advance directives and healthcare wishes. This is the perfect opportunity to get all parties in agreement and aware of what the desires of your senior loved one are as he or she ages. Does she want to stay in the home where she has spent years or prefer to move to a facility when the time comes? Does he want lifesaving measures to be performed if needed or become a DNR? Will there be adequate financial resources to accomplish their wishes and, if not, what is the plan to ensure their needs are met? Do they have a will? Will the family need to get proper documentation together during the visit or consult an eldercare attorney to help the family find agreement or get advice?
  7. Try to continue family traditions while you are all together, both to create a holiday routine familiar to senior loved ones and to keep the traditions alive. Did you go to a special restaurant during the holidays or attend a special religious service? Are there decorations that are special to the family unit which should be displayed? Are there holiday songs that you can sing together to relive the memories from past holidays and create new ones?
  8. Try to bring the celebration (in the right dose) to your senior loved one, as traveling to other people’s homes or other locales might increase confusion in aging family members, especially those with dementia.
  9. Be sure everyone who’s going to visit your senior loved one is aware of the current mental and physical situation so they don’t show alarm or ask the senior to do more than is safe. Visits go better when everyone is on the same page.
  10. Be alert to signs that your senior is ready for a break and needs some time to rest. Arrange time for a nap or a quiet place to rest during your visit so that they don’t get overtired or become irritated.

We all want our holiday time to be joyous! Consider how these strategies can help everyone make the most of the holiday get together and keep it from being a source of stress, depression or agitation for our senior loved ones.

Taking small steps to keep them in their routine and enjoying the family memories and traditions can help turn the holiday into hours of love while making new memories!

We hope you all enjoy your holiday together!