The holiday season is here, and it’s one of my favorite times of the year, especially now that we get to see it through the eyes of our three grandchildren. It’s also one of the hardest times of the year for so many of the families we work with. Family get-togethers can be fraught with drama or missed expectations, many of us are filled with nostalgia for days gone by or loved ones who are no longer with us, and the unspoken pressure to create the picture-perfect Christmas can weigh heavy.
My wife, Gina, and I have come up with tips to help show your special seniors extra TLC this holiday.
Less is more — The things that make the holidays so wonderful for younger folks – twinkling lights, popular Christmas music, celebrating the season with the crowd at the ice-skating rink – can be overstimulating for older people, particularly those with hearing or vision loss or dementia. Think about ways you can get them involved in the festivities in a more subdued way. Instead of going out to dinner, you could have a quiet meal at home.
Help them reconnect to holiday memories — It can be easy to feel out of touch when you turn on the radio and don’t know any of this year’s popular Christmas tunes or you struggle to hear what’s being said around the table. Why not help a loved one feel more connected by inviting them to share some of their favorite memories? Flip through family photo albums together.
Get them involved — When my mother joins us for the holidays, we’ve noticed that it’s easy for her to get lost in the chaos. In the past, she’s made comments about feeling useless, as her doting children and grandchildren care for her. We’ve learned that she appreciates helping with simple activities like setting the Christmas table — having purpose lifts the spirits of loved ones, especially during holidays.
Give a thoughtful gift — Do you want to find ways to spend more time with loved ones? Get season tickets to the local performing arts center and invite them. Are they feeling lonely these days? Buy them a membership to the local fitness or community center. Many stores have wonderful options for seniors like cooking classes, health and wellness seminars.
Support local senior organizations — You may not have any elderly family members nearby, but maybe you’re still looking for ways to support seniors. A great way is donate time or money to organizations that provide support to seniors, like food banks, Meals on Wheels, or veterans associations.
The holidays can be full of joy, but they can also be fraught with difficult emotions for seniors. Start now to think about ways you can help your parents or neighbors experience a better holiday this year.
Guest columnist Tim Murray is the President and Co-Founder of Aware Senior Care in Cary, North Carolina, an award-winning, in-home companion care, personal care, and nursing services.