Make the Holidays More Joyful for Elderly Family Members

The holidays bring families together, and the season should be as merry as possible for everyone. But, we all know holiday stress is a fact of life — and it can be especially tough on older adults.

Here are ways to help ensure your elderly loved ones have smooth, enjoyable holiday season:

  • If their home will be used for gatherings, look for ways to manage the heightened activity. Kids and dogs running about can be over-stimulating and stressful, so make sure parents supervise them.
  • Respectfully honor that Grandma might be particular about which casserole dishes can be used, or help Grandpa put fragile treasures out of reach of young children.
  • Is your elderly loved one quiet and withdrawn? If hearing loss is a factor, check hearing-aid adjustments in support of increased opportunities for conversation.
  • Draw older adults into activities by assigning simple tasks. If dementia is causing your seniors to be withdrawn, get family members to involve them in “memory lane” conversations that take advantage of long-term memory. What was Grandma and Grandpa’s first Christmas or Hanukah together like? Are there cherished ornaments or holiday vacations to reminisce about? Did they weather any scary snowstorms?
  • Be on the look out for holiday criminals who may call, email, or come to the door of your elderly loved one who they expect to be an easy victim. If Grandpa talks about a recent purchase that doesn’t quite make sense, stop, listen, and ask probing questions.
  • Relatives and friends who don’t see older relatives regularly might observe something new. Look for opportunities to have conversations that might start with, “How do you think Grandpa is doing these days?” You might find that an elderly relative will reveal things suddenly to someone they don’t see much. When dementia is present, out-of-town friends and family may need to be warned to help avoid embarrassing moments.
  • Check in with your loved ones to find out how they’re doing in the face of such a flurry of activity. You might be able to set up a room for resting so Grandma can nap or otherwise get quiet time. Don’t be afraid to put a sign on the door that lets others know a room is off-limits for a time.