Family traditions are wonderful. They are the bonds we share with our loved ones and they bring us together. With fall celebrations in full swing, it’s time to think about how the upcoming holidays may be impacting loved ones in our life who are aging, ill, or experiencing dementia. For them the holidays may be stressful, confusing and lonely.
Perhaps your parents have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for as long as you can remember. You may even be smiling at a fond memory you have right now. However, as time passes, these events must evolve as our families grow, change, and age. It can be quite emotional to let go of these long-held holiday traditions. The key is to stay positive and be open and willing to try new activities, while encouraging other family members to do the same.
Involve your loved one in preparations
Most older adults have physical limitations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help with holiday preparations. Include them in activities such as decorating the tree, making handwritten cards, baking cookies and wrapping gifts. This is a great way for them to feel connected to the family and have a sense of purpose.
Share the gratitude
For Thanksgiving, instead of stressing over the perfect menu, start a new tradition by turning it into a potluck with dishes brought by the younger family members to share. Trying new, non-traditional options for dinner can be fun, too. Thanksgiving taco bar? Go around the table and have everyone share a memory that includes the senior in your life. Showing you hold onto these memories will make your loved one feel special.
Go for a walk or even a drive
If the weather is not too cold and there is no snow or ice on the ground that is hazardous, bundle up and pour some hot chocolate into travel mugs. Head out to a neighborhood that is decorated with festive lights for the holiday. This simple activity of walking arm-in-arm with loved ones makes for special holiday memories. If it’s too cold for a walk, take a drive through neighborhoods instead and enjoy the sights in the warmth.
Visiting your loved one
If the older adult in your life has an illness or disability that prevents them from attending a celebration, find other ways to include them. You could bring dinner to them if they’re in the hospital, or just spend time with them. Try to visit on the actual holiday, so they’re not alone.
Ask for ideas
Ask loved one what is important to them. It may be sharing a meal with extended family, seeing their grandchildren, or attending a religious service. Ask other members of your family, including children, for ideas on spending time with their elders. Some families enjoy watching movies or going to live shows, looking through photo albums and sharing stories, baking, making crafts, singing holiday songs, playing games… focus on spending time together!
While it won’t be the same, you can focus on new and creative ways to celebrate with senior loved ones that can help everyone adapt and focus on your family being together. Holidays are the time we reconnect and spend time reflecting on all things for which we are grateful.