The holidays can be a time of great joy and engaging in cherished family traditions can bring some comfort to those who live alone or who live in a senior living facility. However, the season can also cause despondency as seniors reflect on times past, lost loved ones, health concerns or financial problems. The holidays can be a time of great joy and engaging in cherished family traditions can bring some comfort to those who live alone or who live in a senior living facility. However, the season can also cause despondency as seniors reflect on times past, lost loved ones, health concerns or financial problems.
You can help the seniors in your life to have a more enjoyable holiday season by being sensitive to how they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing. Here are some ideas:
Include seniors in holiday plans and preparations
Gatherings of family and friends can be a great comfort to seniors. If your loved ones are still living independently at home and planning to receive guests, you can offer to help them with shopping, transportation and preparations for get-togethers in their homes. Putting on favorite music and pulling out cherished decorations can provide a great setting for sharing special memories and reminiscing.
Clinical psychologist Erin Emery-Tiburcio, Ph.D. suggests planning meals and gatherings that allow for participation and the sharing of traditions. Family caregivers especially should ask others to pitch in and share the load, whether it’s help with shopping or a potluck dinner. “If there are older adults among your friends or family who are able, ask for their help in holiday preparations. That does two things: It not only offsets your stress but also provides meaningful activity for the older adult, makes them feel more included and honors the gifts they have to offer,” she says.
Holiday fun and togetherness doesn’t always have to occur at home. Check your local newspaper, community magazines or websites like patch.com to find upcoming holiday events that will get you out and about together. Also consider volunteering because helping others can be a great mood lifter. Contact local schools, churches, synagogues and mosques to find out about volunteer opportunities. Local Christmas markets also might offer a fun outing.
You can also invite them to attend children’s concerts and performances, or have the younger generations do an activity with them like baking or crafts. If they have favorite holiday foods, you can plan to bring them goodies or make beloved recipes that they enjoy. One nice tradition is to simply watch movies together with a special drink or snack.
Make a care package
One charity in Canada collects stocking stuffers for seniors to help cheer them up during the holidays. Who doesn’t love receiving a goody bag of surprises?
According to Stocking Stuffers for Seniors, the following are simple gifts that seniors appreciate:
- Books or magazines
- Blankets and throws
- Kitchen essentials and travel mugs
- Candy, chocolate or snacks
- Board games or puzzles
- Warm clothes like gloves, scarves, slippers or warm socks
- Gift cards for groceries and drugstores
It can also be fun to buy holiday-themed clothing, like comfortable sweatshirts and sweaters, that your loved one might enjoy wearing.
Check for changes in your loved one’s health and abilities
The holidays are a good opportunity to observe older loved ones to see how they are doing. Notable changes in an aging person’s appearance, behavior, or environment can be signs that his or her health and abilities are changing. In particular, observe your loved one for changes in:
- Balance and mobility. A reluctance to walk, changes in gait or obvious pain during movement can be a sign of joint, muscle or neurological problems. Changes in balance and mobility can increase the risk of falls and injuries.
- Weight. Weight loss can be a sign of depression, dementia or serious illness. Some medications and aging in general can also change the way food tastes and result in a loss of appetite.
- Emotional well-being. Look for signs of depression and anxiety, including withdrawal from social activities, changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in hobbies and changes in personal hygiene.
- Home environment. Take a walk-through of their home while you’re visiting to see if they are keeping their house to their normal standards and maintaining their home as usual. Sometimes signs of trouble can be seen in everyday items like scorched cookware, an overflowing hamper or expired medications.
If you notice any concerning changes, make an appointment with the doctor to rule out physical problems that can be easily resolved. Dehydration, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other common ailments can cause these problems. You know your loved one and their habits best, so go with your gut if something seems off.
The observations you make and the conversations you have during holiday visits are most often starting points for topics that will be ongoing and evolving as your loved one continues to age. If you have questions about the best way to provide care for your loved one, Kadan Homecare is always available to share our knowledge and experience and to assist you in any way we can. For more information or to talk with our team, call 770-396-8997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.