December 17, 2018

Happy holidays! It’s that time of year again. No matter what festivities you celebrate, the winter months are a wonderful time to come together with friends and family. You may be traveling far and wide to see family members you haven’t seen in ages. Or maybe you’re opening your door and welcoming in friends, neighbors, and family members to your own home.

At this time of year, it’s important to get out and be social – and that includes making ample time for the seniors in your life!

If you have elderly relatives, it’s important to make sure that they feel welcomed and accommodated in the seasonal festivities.

Now, this can be more easily said than done. For some older adults, mobility issues can make it more difficult to travel long or short distances in the best of circumstances; winter weather might make traveling even trickier. In other cases, your older loved ones may act withdrawn or moody around the holiday season, or try to shun social obligations altogether. And for adults in the “Sandwich Generation,” it can be difficult to make time for seniors, given all of the demands that come with the holiday – corralling kids, taking road trips, shopping, cooking, cleaning.

Depression and isolation are among some of the greatest challenges facing older adults. Over time, it’s easy for seniors to feel more socially isolated, as their friends and loved ones move away, or changes in their health conditions make it more difficult to travel. Over time, prolonged loneliness and social isolation can cause serious adverse health effects in older adults, including increasing their risk of developing serious chronic conditions.

The holiday season can make these matters feel even more pressing. Remember that this is a time of year typically full of good memories, warm greetings, and plenty of time spent with other people; any lifestyle or health changes might weigh even more heavily on your elderly loved ones during the holiday season, as a result.

So, as a loving relative of an older adult – perhaps even a family caregiver – it’s important to make sure that your elderly loved ones feel included in all the holiday cheer.

Here are a few key ways that you can make sure the older adult in your life has a happy, healthy holiday this year:

Make Sure There Are Tasks for Seniors to Complete

Everyone wants to feel useful and important during the holiday season! If it’s at all possible, try to leave a few specially designated, low-impact chores aside for your older loved one during family get-togethers. Some ideas might include setting the table, helping to dry dishes after the meal, or giving them a spot at the cookie decorating table.

Make Time for Face-to-Face Contact

During the holiday season, it’s important to make sure your loved one truly feels seen. If it’s possible, try to make plenty of time for a face-to-face visit. This may mean traveling a bit out of your way, if you live long distance. But having the ability to sit down and have a lovely chat with your older relative may make it all feel worth it. Plus, paying a visit to your loved ones at home can give you a great opportunity to check some household “to-do” items off their list, as well as evaluate your senior’s living conditions for any potential “yellow flags.”

If it’s not possible to be there in person to share a meal, go for a walk, or play a game together, consider all of your technology options. A phone call can go a long way towards helping you and your loved one feel more connected, even across a great distance.

Depending on how technologically savvy your loved one is (or if you can arrange some help for them), you may even still be able to chat face-to-face, even from some distance away. There are more options out there than ever, including Skype and Facetime, plus devices like the Amazon Alexa.

Prepare a Senior-Friendly Meal

Whether your older loved one comes to the big family meal, or you two spend some time having a quieter, more intimate get-together, make sure that the meal is senior-friendly.

For one thing, be sure to ask your loved one what they’re in the mood to eat this holiday season. You may be surprised! Your loved one may request a traditional staple from their childhood, or maybe something new and unexpected. In either case, taking their wants and needs into account is a great way to make sure that your elderly loved one will have something to eat, that gets them excited for the holiday meal. Similarly, take your loved one’s dietary restrictions and needs into account. It’s important not to serve them anything that may be off-limits for a reason.

When you do prepare the meal, there are a few easy steps you can take to make the spread more senior-friendly. For instance, think about having a variety of soft, easy to chew foods available. Cut down the salt level in the meal, and think about how you can slip in some healthy, nutrient dense superfoods. Finally, when it’s time to serve up the dishes, prepare some senior plates by controlling the portion size and making sure the food is cut up into manageable pieces.

Make Sure Your Older Loved Ones Are Included In Your Holiday Traditions

Does your whole family come together for the holidays? Or will it just be a few of you, including your senior loved one? In any case, we’re willing to bet you have some treasured seasonal traditions that you’d love to do this year. It’s a great idea to keep traditions alive from year to year – especially if you make some easy changes to make your favorite pastime more senior friendly! Here are a few ideas; can you think of any more?

  • Take a car ride instead of a long walk
  • Make sure that all of your seasonal destinations will have things for seniors, kids, and adults to do comfortably and safely
  • Play card games or board games as a family
  • Watch a movie at home instead of going to the theater
  • Relive memories by watching home movies or going through old scrapbooks and photo diaries

Bring In Some Professional Assistance

One of the most important things to remember about taking care of your loved ones during the winter months? You don’t have to go it alone. There are many options out there that can help make caregiving easier on you, and make life that much more bright and enjoyable for your older loved ones.

A professional caregiver or companion can be an invaluable help around the holidays, able to step in and provide support when you and your elderly loved one need it. This can mean a variety of things:

  • Providing driving services for your loved one
  • Spending time with your senior family when you can’t
  • Assisting with housekeeping when you can’t, including meal prep, laundry, cleaning, and so on
  • Helping your loved one with activities of daily living, such as moving, sitting and standing, and grooming
  • Attending to your loved one’s needs during large family gatherings

In short? A professional caregiver can help make sure your loved one feels supported and included, all season long.

Do you have an elderly loved one who could benefit from some additional companionship and care? Do you have any questions about seeking help for the holidays? We’d be happy to set you in the right direction. Here at Companions for Seniors, our mission is to provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support. Our companions help stimulate our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live an active and enriched lifestyle. We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs. Drop us a line today to get the conversation started.