10 Tips to Help the Elderly and their Caregivers Enjoy the Holidays
Holidays can be both a joyful and a stressful time for all of us, no matter what stage of life we’re in. But as a family member ages, it can become more and more difficult to continue the family traditions everyone expects, and at the same time ensure that our elderly loved one’s physical and emotional needs are taken into account. Caregivers often struggle with how to juggle events that can be highly stressful, confusing and even depressing for an elderly family member with the needs and expectations of others.
Situations will vary based on the health issues and mobility of your elderly family member, but these 10 tips could help all families and the elderly person they care for find more joy in the holiday season:
- Simplify your holiday. Caregivers of an elderly family member with younger families of their own have a lot on their plates during the holidays. Over-the-top expectations and an “I want to do it all” attitude can bring on a lot of stress. Simplify routines and modify traditions to reduce stress by making a list of all of your chores and then eliminating those that aren’t truly necessary. Figure out how to continue traditions but perhaps in slightly new ways.
- Plan ahead. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. The noise and confusion of a large family gathering can lead to irritability or exhaustion, so consider designating a “quiet room” and schedule time for a nap, if necessary.
- Modify festivities to accommodate individual limitations. Be conscious of potential difficulties with an event or holiday plans for someone with physical or other limitations
- Ask your loved one about their memories. Holidays often bring back memories. Older people whose memories are impaired may have difficulty remembering recent events, but they are often able to share stories and observations from the past. Use picture albums, family videos and music to help stimulate memories and encourage seniors to share their stories and experiences.
- Create new memories. In addition to familiar traditions, seniors need new things to anticipate. Add something new to this year’s holiday celebration. Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, or window-shopping at the mall or along a festive downtown street.
- Plan how you will pass along holiday traditions. Use the time together for new ways of storytelling and recording family traditions. Step back from simply celebrating the holidays, and think of new ways to record the stories and memories that your parents hold dear.
- Find ways to celebrate long-distance holidays. Circumstances may prevent you from being with your aging parents for the holidays. Be creative and use your imagination for celebrating holidays with elderly parents. For example, hold a “virtual get-together” using Skype, com or FreeConferenceCall.com.Give everyone a chance to talk or even sing together. Reaching out to older relatives who are alone is something all of us can do.
- Acknowledge feelings of grief. Your parents might have new stories about long-time friends that have died. You may have feelings of sadness because they are aging and things are slowing down. If this is the first holiday after one of your parents has died, grief will be very real for everyone. Get a sense of where everyone is emotionally, and what they fear, dread or look forward to about the holidays. Don’t expect immediate agreement about what should be done. Grieving is personal and takes different forms for everyone.
- Avoid embarrassing moments. Try to avoid making comments that could embarrass an older family member who may be experiencing short-term memory problems. If an older person forgets a recent conversation, for example, don’t make it worse by saying, “Don’t you remember?” Just repeat what was said and go on.
- Monitor medications and alcohol. Help seniors adhere to their regular schedule of medications during the chaos of the holidays. Also, pay attention to their alcohol consumption during holiday parties and family gatherings. Alcohol can illicit inappropriate behavior or interfere with medications.
If you need extra help with your loved one during the holidays, give DTN Home Care a call at 701.663.5373. We have staff who can help.