The holidays are a joyous time, and there is no reason that should change because of the last couple of years’ challenges. While traditionally this is a time for families to come together in person, we need to consider the health of older loved ones and find new ways to safely celebrate and keep traditions alive while still including all family member near and far.
While many older adults look forward to this time of year, cooking big meals, decorating their home, and participating in traditions like watching sports, holiday movies or other family traditions, be mindful of changing abilities in your aging loved one.
“As seniors age, their time spent with family, especially through holiday activities such as cooking dinner and decorating the tree, becomes even more precious,” says Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist, and caregiver advocate at Home Instead. That is, especially as seniors may be feeling more isolated and lonelier in the last couple years, it will be important to not simply cancel these events but identify and modify new ways so they can participate.
While the abilities of your aging loved one may be evolving, you can still include them in create ways. Let grandma read the recipe book while you do the cooking and ask her to share memories regarding that dish. Ask what their favorite holiday tradition was and why. Including your aging loved one will certainly change as the years go on and how the holidays are observed, however that does not mean families should abandon traditions. Simply modify them.
There are ways to celebrate, bring cheer and include older family members in a way that is memorable and enjoyable.
1. Host a virtual family celebration. If nothing we have learned from the last 20 months, it is that you don’t have to be physically together to BE Together. To get into the holiday spirit, host a tree-decorating celebration together via video conference, (Zoom, Facetime, Duo, WhatsApp are a few options) or have everyone decorate their tree at the same time and share photos of the final product. On the big day, enjoy a meal together over video, or keep traditions alive by video chatting with older loved ones when opening gifts.
2. Deliver a meal. Many families have learned just how easy it is to door dash and of the like. Consider cooking a meal and delivering it to the loved ones earlier on the actual holiday if they cannot join you. Then plan a family gathering that is more suited to their comfort at another time.
3. Start a movie marathon. Propose a holiday movie marathon and encourage loved ones to watch at the same time from the comfort of their own home. You can connect over video conference or text to enjoy your favorite scenes together as they happen or call afterwards to discuss your favorite part.
4. Bring the children over for a visit. Never underestimate the impact and joy the younger generation brings to the oldest. If there aren’t grandchildren how about Grand PETS?
5. Send care packages. Send a holiday care package with nods to your favorite holiday traditions. If you’re used to decking the halls together, include a few of your favorite ornaments or swap fireplace stockings. You can also send family favorite holiday films and freshly baked cookies to make them feel included in the usual festivities.
Just because older loved ones may be celebrating in a modified manner this holiday season does not mean they have to celebrate alone. By connecting in new festive and creative ways, you can ensure that the spirit of the season is not lost.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? Our team would love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime. Call and ask for Mariclair or Daniella.