Caregiver Tips

How to Keep Your Elderly Loved One Involved During the Holidays

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Don’t you just love the holidays?

  • The traditions.
  • Time spent with family and friends.
  • The food we don’t eat any other time of the year.
  • The spirit of giving and well-wishing that surrounds us.
  • The memories of holidays past.
easy tips to involve elderly parents in the holiday season

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For the first two holiday seasons after becoming a caregiver, I noticed my MIL was less than spirited. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the decorations, had no opinion about our activities, and could care less about the gift-giving.

I was at a loss of how to include her and make the holidays special and enjoyable. Finally, I realized she felt like a spectator.

  • I bought, wrapped, and delivered all the gifts. Even the gifts from her.
  • I cooked and baked all the food.
  • I decorated our home.
  • Most of the cards and well-wishes were not sent to her.

She felt useless and discarded. Once I started including her in our festivities, I noticed a remarkable difference. She started opening up about what makes the holidays special for her. She became excited about the possibilities the holiday season brings. She was filled with the joy, hope, and anticipation of the season.

No, her Dementia didn’t allow her to remember the events or the details but the feeling that being involved in holiday festivities brings left a lasting impression.


It’s not necessarily about creating memories for your loved one but rather instilling the holiday spirit and creating memories with your loved one.

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

1. Discover their traditions

When you become a caregiver, one of the best ways to encourage adaptation and inclusion is to learn about what makes the holiday special for your loved one and make efforts to include those traditions.

  • How did they decorate their home? What creates that spirit of hope and joy for them during this season?
  • Were there any special places they liked to visit during the holidays? What activities made the season real for them?
  • What games, movies, or music did they enjoy during the season?

2. Involve friends and family

Another great way to keep your elderly loved one involved in the holidays is making sure they get plenty of interaction from friends and family. If they’re able, encourage them to visit or take your elderly loved one on a nice holiday outing. Offer suggestions on how your friends and family can make the holiday special for your loved one, outings they might take, and tips to make the most of a visit.

If visiting in person is not feasible, schedule video chats with them so your loved one is able to see and speak to their friends and family.

Another great way to get others involved in helping your loved one have a happy holiday, ask them to send a card or letter. Nothing makes my MIL happier than the knowledge that there are still people out there who think about her and having a nice note she can read over and over keeps the experience alive.

Finally, if your loved one is able, you can help them write and send out their own holiday cards. Not only will your loved one feel like they’re doing something to commemorate the season, but having a note from them is a great way to remind others of your loved one’s need for them.

Related Post: How to Interact with a Person with Dementia

3. Favorite holiday foods

One of the best parts about the holiday season is the food. While food can be a tricky and quite often a battle for caregivers, there are ways to enjoy the feasting without causing too many issues.

  • Don’t get too unusual. Stick to the familiar.
    When preparing foods, remember to make foods that are simple to eat and identify. My MIL swears she loves certain vegetables but when they are placed in front of her she refuses to eat them. She no longer has teeth and doesn’t wear dentures so any food we make has to be easy to chew.
  • Stick to the diet.
    It can be so tempting to pull out all the stops and have a season of splurging but as a caregiver, we must remember that dietary needs know no holiday season. If your loved one is diabetic then filling their season with cakes and cookies will ruin your holiday and cause long-term issues. Focus on small splurges but try to keep to a diet you know allows them to thrive as much as possible
  • Let them help in preparations.
    Now that we’ve talked about diet…Baking is a great way to get your loved one involved in the holiday season. Let your loved one help you bake and decorate delicious deserts for your festivities and gifts.

4. Find ways to serve

My MIL is constantly concerned about her place in our lives and in society as a whole. Even though she does not have the abilities, or the social graces, or even the kindness that once defined her character, she still has a desire to make a difference. She wants to know that she brought joy to someone especially during the holidays.

  • Collect food for your local food pantry.
    Most churches and food pantries will hold a food drive at some point during the holidays. Grab a list, buy the groceries, and let your loved one help you pack bags of food to give. They will love to know they were involved in helping the less fortunate.
  • Make gifts for neighbors.
    Remember all that baking you’re doing? Decorate some cute little bags and give them to your neighbors and friends. If your loved one is able, let them help you deliver these gifts. Not only will your loved one enjoy the opportunity to provide gifts, but you will be making great strides in creating a community that might be beneficial to you as a caregiver.
  • Create care packages.
    There are so many organizations that send care packages to deployed soldiers, children in need,

    Grab a few lists from services like Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, or check with your local shelters and charities and start granting wishes.

    If you prefer to impact the heroes in your own community, consider creating care packages for your local police department, fire department, or hospital. Again, let your loved one be involved in putting it together and delivering.

5. Relive holiday memories

My favorite way to include my MIL in the holidays is to relive old holiday memories with her. Certain ornaments on our Christmas tree, making a special food or baked good, or a special outing or event will bring back a nice memory for her that we can relive.

We can spend hours thumbing through an old photo album or our Christmas memory box. Add some favorite music, hot cocoa, and a cookie and you’re set for a nice relaxing evening.

Related Post: How to Have A Happy Holiday as A Sandwiched Homemaker

When keeping your elderly loved one involved in the holiday season, it’s important to remember that your plans don’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or exciting. Your goal is to make memories with your elderly loved one, not for them. Simple things like remembering traditions, making an effort to include family and friends, feasting on special foods, finding opportunities to serve, and quiet times remembering holidays past will ensure your loved one feels included and special during the holiday 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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making the holidays special for your elderly parent

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