The holidays are an exciting time when the kids have a break from school and adults get a couple of days off from work, presenting a unique opportunity for family members to reunite. If you're taking the family to visit elderly loved ones at their assisted living community, or you're having them over for your holiday gathering, make sure that you know how to ensure their experience is a special one.
Remember that while the holidays are a special time to celebrate with family, they can also be hard for seniors who may have lost someone special or are reminded of old traditions. This is why it's important to pay close attention to your elderly loved ones' behaviors and needs. One of the first steps is making sure they are comfortable when surrounded by multiple relatives at once, especially those they aren't used to being around.
As you plan for your holiday family reunion, keep these tips in mind to ensure your older relatives feel loved and happy.
Remember depression during the holidays is common
According to Care.com, an estimated 6 million adults over the age of 65 are depressed, but a mere 10 percent receive the help they need. Depression among the elderly is often the result of significant life changes, such as the loss of loved ones and physical or mental changes that come with age-related diseases like dementia and arthritis. Even if your loved ones don't seem to experience depression most days, make sure they aren't showing signs of unusual sadness or anxiety during the holidays, as their risk for depression increases during special occasions like these.
"Make sure someone is there to talk and listen."
Someone should be by their sides at all times to talk and listen to them. Even if they only have negative things to say, remember that sadness from losses often resurfaces during the holidays and they may be coping. Lend an ear and try to respond positively. When appropriate, steer the conversation in a more positive direction, such as talking about fond memories you have shared. Remind them that you're happy they're there and that they're a big part of what makes the celebration special.
Make time to do what they love
If your older family members enjoy a certain hobby or activity, make sure that you incorporate it into your holiday festivities. If they enjoy checkers or playing bridge, for example, get the whole family together to play a round or start a tournament. This will ensure you're doing activities that your relatives will engage in. It will also establish a sense of normalcy, as they may begin to feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays and be relieved at the inclusion of an activity they're very familiar with.
Plan quiet time
Regardless of how much fun your elderly relatives may be having with the rest of the family, it's important to incorporate some quiet time into the day. They may need this opportunity to recharge their batteries before continuing on with the rest of the day. Quiet time could include bringing them to a bedroom and allowing them to take a quick nap or sitting down with them in a calm area of the house and catching up or playing a card game. This is an ideal time to gauge how they're feeling and how they're handling the holiday gathering.
"Take the family to see local Christmas lights."
Get them in the holiday spirit
Take the whole family on a car ride to see local Christmas lights. There may be a specific neighborhood that's known for going all out or you could simply drive through town where buildings are lit up and festive decor is on display. The American Medical Resource Institute suggested this as an effective way to help those with mobility problems stay optimistic during holiday gatherings, especially if they're experiencing depression.
Save time for yourself
Making sure your loved ones are enjoying the holidays can be a challenging task that requires a lot of effort, especially if you have a big family with children. While you do want to make their day as comfortable and memorable as possible, you won't be able to accomplish this if you aren't looking after yourself. Ask your siblings or close family members for help to ensure you don't get overwhelmed. It's also important not to strive for perfection - the holidays are a crazy time and there are bound to be a couple of things here and there that don't go as planned. Try your best not to be hard on yourself and have fun!