While the holidays bring "tidings of comfort and joy" to many, not all people face the season with the same sense of optimism and excitement. This can be particularly true for seniors, who may experience a diverse range of emotions during the busy days between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Caregivers can help their aging loved one navigate this sometimes overwhelming time of year with these five tips.
Just because the holidays may be different this year, doesn't mean they can't be joyous.
1. Stay on Schedule
Older adults -- particularly those with Alzheimer's disease or an alternate form of dementia -- thrive with routine and schedule throughout the year. The holidays are no different.
While it's easy to get carried away by the hustle and bustle of the season, resist the temptation to take on too much. Instead, make an effort to keep your aging loved one on track with everything from sleep to diet to therapy importance. Doing so may take extra effort on your part, but will go a long way to helping your loved one best enjoy the holidays.
If your aging loved one has lost ground over the past year or experienced a health setback, he may not be able to participate in the usual activities and events. Rather than risking disappointment, take time to clearly assess your aging loved one's physical, mental and emotional capabilities. Make sure you and he are on the same page regarding what to expect in the weeks ahead.
For example, if large parties or unfamiliar settings cause your loved one anxiety, plan to sit these out and instead participate in more intimate, comfortable gatherings.
3. Plan Ahead
While your holiday fun in the past may have involved everything from spontaneous Christmas caroling to midnight mass, these spur-of-the-moment activities can be stressful to seniors. Before the holiday season even begins, get out your calendar and assess which activities are essential and which can be set aside this year. Once the whirlwind begins, both you and your loved one will enjoy the opportunity to have some time to breathe amidst the usual chaos.
4. Create New Traditions
Letting go of old traditions doesn't mean losing the spirit of the season. Find new ways to celebrate together which are within your aging loved one's comfort zone. Whether you decorate her room, address Christmas cards, or explore online shopping -- perfect when stores are too crowded or overwhelming -- starting new traditions can be just as fun and fulfilling as continuing old ones.
Whenever possible, involve multiple generations in activities. Seniors and children alike derive invaluable rewards from spending time together.
5. Take a Moment to Remember
The holiday season evokes many different kinds of memories. Take a quiet moment to reflect with your aging loved one on people and places from the past. Looking at photos, listening to music, and sharing stories are all valuable ways to share special moments while honoring your loved one's legacy.
While it's natural to feel broad range of emotions during the holidays, including grief and loss, this is also a good time to check in with your aging loved one's mental state to determine whether he may be suffering from depression.
Seniors and children alike derive benefits from multigenerational activities.
While the holidays may not be the same as they were in the past, they still offer the occasion to enjoy the love and company of family and friends. Caregivers who follow these five tips can help seniors reconnect with the joys of the season while making new memories along the way. mmLearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmlearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. Access our free online caregiver videos today.