‘Tis the season to gather, celebrate the meaning of the season, and enjoy time with friends and family. As you plan get-togethers, you may be wondering how best to include your aging loved ones. It’s important to consider what will work best for their needs as well as for your own. Whether you spend time together at home, in an assisted living community, or somewhere else, there are meaningful ways to enjoy one another and the gifts of the season.
One of the best things you can do is to talk with your loved one about what they would like to do for the holidays. Would they like to visit you? Do they feel most comfortable in their own living space? Consider their needs as well as their hopes. And then take note of what is possible.
Considering your own needs during the holidays is equally important. Take a moment to consider what feels possible to you. How many guests can you reasonably host? What kind of help might you need? What pace is best for you as well as aging loved ones? What do you want this Christmas? Attending to your own self-care, limits, and hopes can help the celebrations feel both meaningful and festive, instead of draining.
Visiting an Assisted Living Facility
If it’s best to visit your loved one in their assisted living facility, call ahead to check on their current visitor policies. If you are allowed to visit, there are a lot of fun things you can do together.
You may be able to join them at a special holiday meal, activities session, or religious service that the home provides. While visiting in their living space, you could bring along a photo album to look through, some decorations for their room, a seasonal puzzle to work on, or a festive craft to enjoy together. Sing a couple of favorite carols. Or even just spend a relaxing time over coffee and cookies while reminiscing and chatting about hopes for the new year.
If dementia is a reality, keeping the space and the schedule familiar can be important. You might decide to go visit alone or with a small group of family. Being gentle with your expectations and approach can help you share an enjoyable and meaningful time together.
Celebrating at Home
If your family member or friend is able to come visit you in your home for the holidays, consider what might make them feel most comfortable and welcome. Sometimes, older adults may worry that they will be a burden to younger family. You may need to clearly reassure them that they are wanted. Let them know who is looking forward to seeing them and what they are excited to do together. Simply saying, “Alex wants to show you his model train,” may be enough to let them know that their presence matters and is desired.
Also ask how you can make them most comfortable in your home. What needs might they have for medication schedules, rest, nutrition, or personal care? As you talk, consider if these are needs you’re able to meet. Collaborating on a plan together can help both of you feel more at ease and ready to enjoy time together.
There are tons of great activities to do together, whether you’re at home, visiting your loved one, or even headed out. Choose the things you and your family are most interested in, and have a good time!
For some, heading outside can be invigorating and refreshing. Go for a stroll in your neighborhood before dark and take in the sights and smells of the season. Driving around after dark to view Christmas lights can feel festive. Heading to a favorite local diner for coffee and pie can bring back familiar feelings of seasonal fun. Attending a Christmas Eve service at church can also meet spiritual needs and help you and loved ones connect with a worshiping community.
If you’re celebrating at home, do the things your family enjoys most. Focusing on one aspect of the celebration can make things feel a bit more simple. If food is always important, make dishes you can all enjoy. Incorporate one or two of your loved one’s traditional favorites. And maybe add in something new that you’ve been wanting to try. You might also decorate cookies together. Pre-cut cookie dough can make that even simpler!
Giving gifts, participating in traditions, or doing activities together can be done whether at home or in an assisted living facility. Crafts, holiday stories, music, puzzles, favorite movies, and more, can be enjoyed in either space. It may just take a little more planning. As you consider what’s best for your aging loved one, also consider what actually feels possible for you. Making room for your own enjoyment as you care for others will help create moments that you can all savor together.
We’re in the merry spirit over here! We wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season. We continue to take the greatest care as we celebrate during the Covid pandemic. Reach out to us with any questions you might have about visiting and current safety practices. Many blessings on you and yours!