Seniors often experience feelings of isolation and loneliness during the holidays. They may be remembering those dear to them who are no longer here or battling a long illness. Many seniors exhibit signs of increased anxiety or depression due to feeling overwhelmed. Holiday stress can also impact their physical and mental well being.
It is important to include your loved ones in the family holiday preparations to keep them active and involved. Here are some tips to help your elderly loved ones enjoy the holidays:
1. Plan ahead. Encourage the participation of your senior family members in planning both gift buying and holiday activities. Send your loved ones a list of possible gift ideas for other family members and friends and accompany them on a shopping excursion to select the perfect gifts.
2. Get them involved. Involving your senior family members in festive activities allows them to feel helpful and needed. When putting up your Christmas tree, have them help you with the ornaments, or work together on cooking a favourite or traditional holiday meal.
3. Link up with like minds. Reach out to older relatives and friends who are alone and especially those who may share similar interests with your loved ones. Plan group activities like exercise, meals, games and trips to get them out of the house and expand their circle of friends.
4. Maintain a happy environment. Maintain brightness during these special festive days, despite the sense of loss they may have of loved ones who are no longer here to partake in the holiday with them.
5. Bring back happy memories. Seniors often find great joy in having someone show interest in them and their past. Help your senior family member feel loved and involved by going down memory lane. Go through your family photo albums, share old stories or watch old family movies together.
6. Create a senior-friendly environment. If you plan on taking your loved ones out to celebrate at another person's home, make sure the new environment is safe for them. Ask the host to remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could be hazardous or barriers to people who have difficulty walking.
7. Monitor their health condition. Make sure your loved ones adhere to their regular schedule of medications during the holiday hustle and bustle. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the activities or length of time they are included in the festivities. Consider planning a nap time or providing a "quiet room" where older family members can take a break from the noise and confusion.
8. Encourage social activities. If you live far away from your loved ones and cannot be with them for the full holiday season, try encouraging them to join a senior group in their area, or discuss the possibility of hiring an in-home companion or a helping hand. Not only will the companion be able to help with basic chores and activities but they will be able to provide much-needed social interaction for your loved ones on a regular basis.
9. Give them your time. Give your loved ones the gift they most want—your time and companionship. Seniors will typically relish in the seasonal gatherings. This is the time to have patience, compassion, and provide a safe and wonderful new memory for them to reflect back on throughout the coming year.