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Holidays with seniors

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la. We’ve all heard the song and we know that we are meant to be happy and jolly during the holidays. However, we know that each of us are often pulled in many directions during this busy time of year with our family and friends.  How are you evaluating your time?  Who are you spending it with?  Is it with your elderly loved one?

Did you know, it isn’t unusual for depression in seniors to be strongest as the holidays approach, especially if this will be the first year they have been away from the home they lived in for so many years?  They may feel displaced and depressed.  Even if they are still in their own home, they may be sad, especially if they have lost their spouse. Getting into the holiday spirit may not seem worth the effort to them.

Chances are that, deep down, they would like to feel that sense of joy and holiday cheer that they had when they spent holidays with family and friends. It is often a time of reflection as they are looking back to the time when they were heavily involved or coordinated family dinners and events.

Here’s where we can help.  Being aware and sensitive to their feelings is extremely important.  Sometimes, we don’t pick up on clues in terms of how our loved ones are feeling. We tend to talk around them without seeing their reactions. Have you noticed that as the holidays approach or are talked about well ahead of time that our elderly loved ones get quite and pull back from joining the conversation? They might even state they don’t want to be included in the usual family traditions. As the time for the holidays grows closer, they might be reluctant to even visit with you at all.

The good news is we can help make the holidays as positive and rewarding as possible. Here are some easy ideas to help you get them involved and pull them out of the holiday blues and into a more receptive state to take a bigger part in holiday festivities.

Holiday memories from the past

Start with gentling urging your elderly parent or loved one to talk about a particular memory that will bring a smile to their face. Choose something you would really like to hear them talk about and something that will foster positive conversations, perhaps taking them down memory lane.

Another idea is if you have some of the decorations from when you grew up, you might choose one that has a lot of sentiment attached to it and show it to your elderly loved one. Ask questions such as- where it came from – if it is one that seems to have been in the family forever.  Really let them talk and share as seniors generally like to talk and be heard.  Of course, if you have a different memory about the decoration, talk about your memory of it and see if they join in and have even more to share.

 Move From Merely Talking to Doing

Once you have your elderly parent talking and remembering, you can move on by asking for their advice as this will help get them motivated to doing more during the holidays. Ask for help in showcasing special decorations or how to make some of the special foods and drinks you remember growing up. Ask them to help you get the ingredients for foods and drinks or the right decorations to complement those special ones from the past.  Including them in activities fosters joy and love.

It really is the “little things” in life that make a difference.  These ideas are just a few that can help you get started. At the Small Assisted Living Coalition, we have many more ideas to help beat the holiday blues in seniors during the holidays. We would love to share them with you.  Please contact us at 813-857-2551 or click here.

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