Involving aging loved ones during the holidays often challenges families. The holidays are a busy time for most people and are meant to be a joyous time for families to gather and celebrate. However, these happy occasions can also be challenging for older adults and their family members.
Planning is Key
Navigating travel, family gatherings, and other holiday activities can be difficult for older adults with mobility issues or conditions like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and their caregivers. Ultimately, both can end up feeling isolated while everyone else is enjoying the festivities.
But here is the good news; With a little bit of preplanning and perhaps a bit of adjustment, you can make the holidays joyous for everyone, regardless of their level of ability. Use these tips to enjoy celebrating the holidays while still honoring the needs of your aging loved one.
Every family dynamic is different and that is especially true when there are aging members involved. Change is never easy, and seeing changes in loved ones is difficult too, but creating new holiday experiences is a wonderful way to create connection and joy for the whole family.
Pysical and/or cognitive changes and limitations may make it necessary to adapt family celebrations to make inclusion of your aging loved one possible. If your loved one has physical limitations or uses assistive devices, make sure the hosting home can accomodate their particular needs? Can adaptations be made to allow them to attend?
If your loved one has dementia, be sure to plan important activities for their best time of day. You may even want to share communication tips with other guests to help the day go more smoothly. Share this helpful guide for talking to someone with dementia.
If traveling is difficult for your loved one, consider bringing the festivities to them. Even if that means a smaller celebration at an alternate time from the larger one. A virtual event is also a great way to facilitate a family gathering when you are not local.
If a long car ride is part of the holiday plan, set yourself up for success and pack a small cooler or bag with snack, drinks, meds, etc. Map your route in advance and plan for bathroom breaks. If wheelchair accessible transport is necessary, reserve this well in advance of the holidays as availability will be limited.
Plan Appropriate Activities
Your loved one’s abilities may be changing, but allowing your loved one to play an active role in the holiday celebration is so important! Get creative and modify traditional activities to accomodate your loved one’s abilities or add some new activities to the mix!
Perhaps your loved one can offer the blessing at the meal or help you in the kitchen by reading the recipes to you. Sharing family memories through pictures, music, and stories are surefire ways to inspire interaction across the generations at your family event.
Make Space for Quiet Time
Large gatherings may be stressful for your loved one, epecially if they have Alzheimer’s or dementia. To avoid overstimulation, arrange for a quiet space to get away to. This quiet space will also offer a great opportunity for other family members to spend one on one time with your loved one.
Plan for Dietary Needs
Many older adults have special dietary needs or restrictions. When planning the menu, be conscious of dietary restrictions and plan to have appropriate foods available. Holiday meals tend to be filled with delicious treats, but it is wise to limit foods that are too different from their normal diet.
Also pay attention to how fatty or sugary foods affect your loved one and recognize that alcohol may not interact well with medications.
Don’t Forget the Meds
Plan to administer medications in a timely manner, if necessary. Missing or delaying medications can have an adverse affect on your loved one’s system.
Involving aging loved ones during the holidays does not have to be stressful. The bottom line is to be flexible and enjoy spending time and making memories with those you love.
Liz Craven, along with her husband Wes, owns Pro-Ad Media, publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide, serving the local community for over 29 years. Liz lives in Lakeland and is very active in the local community, specifically in the area of aging. Liz serves on a number of local boards and committees including the Lakeland Vision and Age Friendly Lakeland.