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A Holiday Guide for Our Elderly Loved Ones

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(December 15, 2020)--Christmas can be a wonderful time of the year, and for the fortunate among us, a time that we get to share with our nearest and dearest. However, with every Christmas that passes by, we all age, and some of us will not be as spritely as we once have been. You might notice that your grandma or grandpa are a little slower, or cannot join in on the usual traditional activities you do every year. It might be that your elderly loved ones are coming out of a care facility to celebrate with you. Whichever it is, the new situation might mean that you face some challenges and that there may be some things you need to be mindful of.

This guide will give you some tips on how to enjoy the festive holidays with your elderly loved ones and approach any challenges with a kind and understanding solution.

Get the Home Ready

Wherever you are celebrating the festive holidays, make sure you have it prepared for your older relatives. Stairs could have become difficult, so make sure to have something in place (even if it is you or a carer) that can assist your guests up and down the stairs. Alternatively, if you have a downstairs bathroom, try and keep everyone on one floor level to make things easier for everyone. 

 Trip hazards can be a problem too, so pay attention to loose rugs or wires and leads, and make sure everything is out of the way, especially if you have family that are not steady on their feet.

If they struggle to eat by themselves, sitting next to them and having their food cut up already will help them eat independently, but you are there if they need your help.

Stay Calm and Collected

 Having people over or being with family for the holiday season can get frustrating at even the best of times, but if they are not at their best or are starting to experience cognitive decline, patience is one of the most important gifts you can give them this Christmas. It can be difficult when someone cannot hold a conversation, or might not make much sense, but having them over and involving them in the festivities will make a world of difference to them. Those who have dementia might not know exactly what is going on, but can still feel happy, sad, relaxed, cheerful and a range full of other emotions, which is why spending time with their loved ones and getting involved as much as possible is good for their mental health and wellbeing. 

 There may be moments where they forget what they are doing or do not understand what you are asking them. It could be that they have got mixed up telling a story or trying to do an activity. These can all be difficult to deal with, especially as it is often quite upsetting to witness, and sometimes we also have relatives present that are in denial too, which can mean sentences such as “You’re silly!” and “ You already know this!” can come out. This can be confusing and frustrating to the person with cognitive impairment, so remember to stay calm and focus on the positives. If someone else is getting heated, do your best to interject and diffuse the situation as quickly and calmly as possible. The important thing to remember is that they are here and spending time with you, so remind everyone to relax and take it easy.

Get Inclusive

Some traditions might have to be adapted when seniors who might need extra care come into our homes. While charades might be confusing and stressful for some, more relaxing and simple games such as bingo and jigsaw puzzles can involve everyone without being too demanding, and even the children can play! You can even customize these games to have your own versions, such as Christmas bingo or a personalized jigsaw with a photo of your family, favorite place, or picture on it. There are plenty of inclusive activities that you can do with your elderly loved ones, even if they are cognitively impaired, so plan ahead to make sure it is a magical Christmas that everyone can join in with!

Don’t Do it Alone

The festive period can already be a mega challenge to get through. From the cooking, the hosting, the shopping, wrapping, and everything else in between, Christmas can already be extremely exhausting, even if we enjoy it! When you pair that with other challenges such as taking your relatives out of assisted living for a few days, the holidays can fast become something that feels like the polar opposite. You can hire professional help over the holidays for the trickier of situations, or let your friends and family know what they need to do, or not do, say or not say, and what you will need help with when the time comes. It is much easier when everyone works together and is on the same page. You can also ask quality care businesses such as for excellent professional advice, who have devoted care specifically for memory. You can talk with you about other options such as assisted living for your loved one in a caring and social community if that is something you are considering for the new year.

Have Fun!

This might go without saying but, remember to have fun all together. Christmas can be a stressful time, especially when things are changing at such a rapid rate. Not only do we have all of the regular things to deal with, such as aging, medical problems, or other general considerations, but we also have Covid-19 on top of that. If we have ever had a Christmas that we should let our hair down, have fun and enjoy the time and company with our loved ones, it is now. So do your best to put your stresses aside, not to worry about the little things, and appreciate the time you all have together.