During the holiday season, many seniors experience mixed feelings. Some people get a break from their routine to spend some time with family, but family is not always geographically close by or able to visit. At this time of year, it is not unusual for many of us to find holidays lonely or stressful. So, we have some suggestions from mmLearn.org that can provide an opportunity to focus not on material gifts or big parties, but more on just implementing a few stress free ideas into this busy season and plan holiday festivities together.
Trimming the Tree
Most seniors should not be outside for an extensive amount of time during cold months, so they probably shouldn’t march around a tree farm with you. But once you have a tree, invite your older relative over for a night of trimming the tree and decorating the home. Give seniors their own special assignments so they feel they are needed. At Brookhouse Home, we have holiday activities like trimming the tree.
Baking and Cooking Traditions
For many seniors, baking and cooking bring back fond memories of holidays past. And there is nothing cozier than the smell of freshly baked goodies. Before you begin, sit down with your relative and make a list of the baked goods they used to enjoy. Do they have any vintage recipes or cookbooks? Then get them involved in the process. They might enjoy shelling pecans or walnuts, mixing cooking ingredients, or decorating. We decorate Christmas cookies at Brookhouse every year.
Wrapping Gifts and Christmas Cards
There are always gifts to wrap during the holidays, and you and your loved one can do it together while listening to holiday music. If they have limited mobility, you can still have them help by picking out wrapping paper, or placing tape. We are always grateful as different organizations and schools send us holiday cards or bring by simple gifts so we are always greeted by some special act of kindness.
For Children Who Live Farther Away…Do a Safety Check
If you’re not able to visit your aging family members very often, a holiday visit can give you a chance to take a look at them and their surroundings to make sure they are safe. Problems with memory, health, anxiety, isolation, safety and other issues can show up in simple signs if you know what to look for.
When Holidays Are Tough
No matter how many activities you plan, some seniors still find the holidays difficult. This time of year can trigger feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially for seniors who may be coping with losses.
One of the best things we can do for people feeling down during the holidays is provide a judgment-free space to listen.
Dealing with the Grinch?
We are all also challenged when loved ones react to holidays with sadness, agitation, or plain old grumpiness. There are a number of ways to approach this, including slowing down, listening, and helping redirect bad feelings into good ones.
For some seniors, looking backward can help them tap into some happier memories.
In today’s busy world, we often don’t take enough time to just be together. Take some time to talk about what the holidays were like when your loved one was growing up. Find music that sparks joy for them, and have a cup of tea or hot cocoa.
Even if their short-term memory is diminished, they might be able to recall holidays from long ago. When the holiday preparations have all been done—the decorating, the gifts, the food — and you sit down to enjoy your holiday meal, be sure to let your loved one know that you could not have made it through the holiday rush without their help.
Caring for older adults is a huge responsibility, but it does not always have to be stressful.
If your loved one is aging or alone, your thoughtfulness at the holidays is bound to have a positive impact.