The holidays are associated with giving, family traditions, and good cheer. But they also can be stressful and overwhelming for those who are caring for an elderly family member.
According to research from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, approximately 34 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. In addition, about 15 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
Below are a few things to consider in order to enjoy the holidays while providing compassionate care to a loved one:
- Traditions are not as important as connections. Holiday traditions can bring the family together and bring back special memories, but sometimes they can be difficult for an elderly loved one. You may find that traditions such as holiday shopping, gift wrapping, and baking have become more exhausting for your loved one as each holiday season approaches. Instead of forcing your loved one to participate in an activity they no longer enjoy for the sake of tradition, consider new ways to value each other’s time during the holidays.
- Get everybody on the same page. When you begin to develop your holiday plans, make sure family members and friends in your planned gathering are in agreement about the preferred time and place of the gathering well in advance. This way, you can express the plans in detail to your elderly loved one to minimize stress. Consistent reminders of the plan in the weeks leading up to the gathering also can be helpful. When planning the gathering with family members, it is also important to communicate any dietary restrictions or pertinent information about your loved one’s health.
- Utilize storytelling and reminiscing. The holidays can be difficult for those who have lost a family member. To help your elderly loved one avoid succumbing to these feelings of grief, encouraging positive storytelling and reminiscing about good holiday memories can be helpful. When it comes to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, storytelling may get repetitive for caregivers but not to the loved one. Though you may have heard the same holiday story dozens of times, it’s important to remember that your family member likely finds great joy in reminiscing.
- Prioritize self-care. The holidays can be hard for those caring for an elderly loved one. Feelings of grief, guilt, and stress are normal reactions. To address these feelings, it can be helpful to interact with other caregivers who are in similar positions. In addition, it’s important not to take your elderly loved one’s mood personally during the holidays. Maintaining a healthy sense of humor and taking some time to do things you enjoy can also help with stress management.
You may also find it more difficult to buy holiday gifts for your elderly loved one than it used to be. Below are a few gift ideas for older adults:
- Cozy bathrobes and slippers. Because seniors can get cold in the winter, a warm bathrobe and a matching pair of slippers will be appreciated. For safety, look for non-skid soles on the slippers.
- Food gifts. No matter how old you get, you always appreciate your favorite food. Making a personalized gift basket filled with your loved one’s favorite cookies, candies, jams, crackers, cheeses, meats, or other snacks makes for a thoughtful and delicious gift.
- Fitness tools. Light weights, stretch bands, and similar items can help your elderly loved one stay healthy. The Arthritis Foundation has a list of exercise, hobby and home items for seniors with arthritis or limited joint mobility.
- Wireless headphones. Headphones or earbuds with bluetooth accessibility make a great gift to enhance music listening, television viewing, or audiobook listening.
- Personalized calendars. Utilizing a photo website, gifting an elderly loved one with a customized calendar featuring photos of family members, pets, and favorite vacation spots makes for a great gift.
Nazareth Home wishes you a wonderful holiday season, and for more caregiving tips, please contact us. We are here to provide help and to support you and your family.