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Caregiver Training Blog

’Tis the Season: Holiday and Christmas Activities for Seniors


Christmas-activities-for-seniorsAs the holidays approach, many caregivers look forward to them with mixed feelings. Some people get a break from their routine to spend some time with family, but it doesn’t always work out like the movies. And it’s not unusual for older relatives to find holidays lonely or stressful.

Rather than focusing on material gifts, some approaches to holidays can help caregivers and seniors avoid the stress and enjoy each other.

We have some suggestions for Christmas activities for seniors that can provide an opportunity to spend quality time together. Even if you don’t celebrate that particular holiday, you can find plenty of activities that bring you together with your aging loved one in a relaxed setting. 

Plan Holiday Festivities Together

Seniors sometimes feel left out. They enjoy being a part of the planning process, so get them involved in creating a plan to celebrate in ways that allow for relaxation and quality time together. The following are a few ideas for people who celebrate Christmas. 

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. 

Baking and Cooking Day

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. 

Wrapping Gifts

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.  

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.

The mmlearn video, Home for the Holidays, has advice for siblings and children who are visiting aging relatives.  

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 recent losses. 

One of the best things we can do for people feeling down during the holidays is provide a judgment-free space to listen. 

Find other tips for helping people cope with grief and loss here

Dealing with the Grinch?

Caregivers are also challenged when their 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.

Try Just Reminiscing

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 in place, your presence at the holidays is bound to have a positive impact.

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