Caregiver Tips

Celebrating the Holidays with Elderly Loved Ones

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If you find celebrating the holidays with elderly loved ones to be stressful, you are not alone! We want to include our loved ones in our celebrations and festivities but we don’t want to cause them or ourselves any extra stress.

make holiday celebrations for elderly parents enjoyable

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The holidays can be rough especially for the elderly in our care.

  • It can be a reminder of everything they have lost – family, friends, and freedoms.
  • It’s a lengthy break in their routine that can cause agitation and anxiety.
  • The increase in activities can cause a lot of fatigue which leads to grumpy moods and increased confusion.
  • While full of tradition, it is also full of unknowns – people we only see a few times a year, unfamiliar locations, familiar locations decorated in unfamiliar ways, changing schedules – all of this can cause a lot of fear.

As a caregiver, the decision to celebrate the holidays or keep things normal can weigh heavily. There are ways we can have a full and joyous holiday season, include our elderly loved ones in the festivities, and keep stress at a minimum

Related Post: How to Keep Your Elderly Loved One Involved During the Holidays

1. Create a safe environment

When decorating your home, make sure you are keeping the main pathways clear. Senior adults can become very sensitive to blinking or bright lights and bold colors. Create a calmly decorated atmosphere without clutter. Make sure your decorations are sturdy and secure. Tie them down if necessary.

2. Be mindful of diets and medications

A big part of the holidays is the food. However, be mindful of how changes in your loved one’s diet might affect them. Their health knows no holiday season. While certain splurges can be “allowed” make sure you stick as closely to their diet as possible. Also, pay attention to how alcohol consumption might interact with their medications.

While we want them to enjoy themselves in the moment, we also want to make sure we’re not sacrificing long-term health for temporary pleasures.

If you are hosting an elderly loved one, consult their primary caregiver about dietary needs. Consider also what they are comfortable eating or any food aversions they may have developed and plan your menus accordingly.

3. Keep noise at a minimum

While at home, make sure you allow times of quiet to regroup and rest. Make visitors aware of your loved one’s needs and ask that they space their visits out.

If you are hosting an elderly loved one, try to keep a calm and more subdued atmosphere. Keep conversations with your loved one simple with just one or two participants at a time.

4. Provide a “safe space”

Even during “normal” times of the year our loved one needs a place to escape and regroup. While the temptation to decorate all the spaces can be strong, we want to keep certain areas of our home as normal as possible.

If you’re hosting an elderly loved one, make sure you provide a quiet, clutter and chaos free space they can “escape” to should your celebrations become too spirited.

Related Post: Becoming Their Safe Space | The Challenges of Elderly Emotional Support

5. Celebrate early

The holidays are known for being a break in routine but this can cause a lot of stress for your loved one. Keep the roots of your routines in tact and keep the bulk of your celebrating in the middle. Your loved one will enjoy the holidays more without the fatigue that often accompanies late afternoon and evening.

If you’re hosting an elderly loved one, consider lunches or early suppers and afternoon parties as opposed to evening. This can also help keep your guest list at a minimum and ease any stress large crowds might have on your elderly loved one.

6. Provide opportunities for them to be included

There are many things our loved ones can be included on during the holidays:
– Online shopping for family
– Wrapping gifts
– Writing Christmas cards
– Menu planning
– Light baking/cooking

Yes, it’s faster and easier to do these things alone but it makes such a difference to make an effort to include your loved one in simple holiday preparations. The holidays are all about giving and serving and very few of us want to be mere spectators. PLAN times for them to be included and you will save yourself a lot of extra stress while allowing them to feel useful during the holidays.

7. Include their traditions

Take some time and learn what makes the holidays special for our loved one.
– Do they have any special decorations that can be included?
– Are there specific dishes they enjoy?
– What are some activities that might bring back a special memory?
– Are there any movies, TV shows, or music that give them that holiday spirit?

Not only will including some of their traditions in your holiday celebrations make them feel special but it will also go a long way in showing them they are not forgotten.

Related Post: How to Get to Know Someone Who Can’t Communicate

8. Keep conversation light and flowing

While we want to stay sincere in our conversation, we also want to create a joyous atmosphere. Many times our loved ones can begin dwelling on and talking about the negative and at times inappropriate. Be prepared to redirect conversation when needed. Keep an arsenal of happy memories, funny stories, or interesting facts to ease tense situations that may arise.

If you’re hosting an elderly loved one, consider providing a companion who is familiar enough to guide conversations should they shift. You want to keep spirits up for everyone.

9. Watch for signs of fatigue and burnout

You know your loved one best and know the signs of fatigue and burnout. Exhaustion can quickly ruin even the most spirited celebrations for you and your loved one.

Don’t be afraid to cut your festivities short if you notice that your loved one has had enough. If you are visiting, alert your host ahead of time of your elderly loved one’s limitations and of the possibility of your early departure.

Always make sure to provide plenty of opportunities for rest during the holidays for your loved one. Yes, you want them to be included but that doesn’t mean “do all the things”. Allow DAYS of rest so the parts they do participate in are enjoyable for everyone involved.

10. Don’t stress over it

Including your elderly loved one in holiday celebrations and festivities sounds stressful but it doesn’t have to be. Pick a few activities you know your loved one will enjoy. Include them in parts of you decorating and preparation. But, don’t stress over it.
– If your loved one shows no enthusiasm, allow them to be a spectator.
– If they put up a fight about going out, pick your battles and don’t force them to do something.
– If they don’t seem interested in socializing, be present.

Related Post: Ten Things Being A Caregiver Has Taught Me About Life

Including your loved one initially seems stressful. You don’t know what to expect from them. Will they really enjoy themselves? Is this just wasted effort? Will including them bring me more stress and ruin my holiday season?

What’s important is that you show them through your efforts that they are still important. They matter. They have not been forgotten because they are older and need a caregiver.

Most of all, don’t let the idea of including your elderly loved one stress you out. Your efforts and presence are what is most important during this season.

Did you like this post? How have you set boundaries in your sandwiched home? Let me know in the comments below.

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