Holidays are special for everyone including elderly people. Whether elderly people live with their children or alone, there are several ways through which family members of the senior citizens can make holidays an exhilarating and joyous experience for seniors. Family members can arrange parties, buy gifts, and organize fun activities for seniors.
If you are going to have a family dinner at your house, write down everything that you need to do. And, be sure to follow this list.
- Try to make all the food items that seniors like early as long as they won’t go bad. Get the candy put into bowls a few days before a party, make that potato salad the day before, bake that cake that morning instead of 2 hours before the party.
- Lay out the outfit that you are going to wear the night before. This way all you have to do is jump in the shower. No need to worry on what you are going to wear.
- Set the table and place out serving bowls early. This can even be done a week before if you are very busy.
Especially for Alzheimer Loved Ones
Plan early and tell your loved one what these plans are. When having a family get together, try not to have a lot of noise. Laughing, singing, talking is fine. However, loud banging noises (i.e. New Year’s) can frighten your loved one. Make sure that there is a place in your home that your loved one can go to if it gets too overwhelming. A lot of people may be confusing to your loved one. When decorating, avoid blinking lights. This may confuse your loved one. If your loved one does not want to participate in the festivities, do not force the issue. Be patient and try again later. Understand that a family gathering can be stressful to your loved one. If possible, keep gatherings small and simple.
Start shopping as early as possible because this way you will have more time to prepare for family dinners and parties. Shopping for gifts can be very time consuming.
Friends and relatives can choose a gift that is sure to please by asking questions and observing the patient’s needs. The most important factor to consider is matching the gift to the current condition of the patient. Relatives and friends who have not seen the person in a long time may not realize that these conditions not only affect memory, but also can affect concentration. In early stages of dementia, for example, magazines with bright pictures and short books are welcome gifts. As these diseases progress, one’s interest in these activities lessens and these would not be useful.
One should always check with the caregiver or nursing home staff before purchasing any gift to ask about any special restrictions and rules for that particular facility. The health care provider can often recommend a specific gift based on the budgeted amount. Because they see the patient on a daily basis, they are equipped to know the types of gifts that are useful and often needed.
Ten Gifts to Consider for People with Diminished Mental Capacity
- Stuffed animals make good gifts for many nursing home patients. It is important to choose those that can be laundered. A reindeer for Christmas, a stuffed turkey for Thanksgiving or a birthday bunny can help celebrate these special occasion
- Musical gifts, if encouraged by the facility, can provide pleasure for the family member. A small radio or CD player with soothing holiday CDs can often aid a patient in going to sleep. Check with the staff before buying. If they are not equipped to take the time to turn it off and on, the gift would be wasted.
- Laminated photo collages of past holidays can help keep memories alive. Laminate sheets can be bought at any office supply store and applied to the sheet of photos of family or friends. These will help the person keep in touch with the past.
- Holiday cards made by grandchildren that include a photo of the child are welcome gifts.
- Lightweight sweatshirts and sweatpants. Clothing that is easy to slip into makes the job of the staff much easier. For a special holiday an inexpensive Christmas or birthday shirt is a nice touch.
- Non-slip house shoes are good if the patient is allowed to wear them.
- A small television with DVD player can be a gift that the entire family buys together.
- Seasonal gifts like a small artificial Christmas tree with non-breakable ornaments or a tiny American Flag for Memorial Day add a nice touch to the room. Reusable seasonal gifts should only be given if arrangements can be made to remove the gift and store it for another season.
- A greeting card that can be personalized by recording a message. Hearing a familiar voice will give pleasure to persons with many stages of aging-related diseases.
- An electronic photo album keeps family and friends fresh in the patient’s mind. Including scanned photos of the person’s life in happier times can evoke pleasant memories. Current photos of children and grandchildren are nice additions.
Fun Activities for Caregiver & Loved One
Put up that tree and/or other decorations together. Make some cocoa and have fun. Play the holiday music and sing, sing, sing. Make your own decorations. This is an excellent activity, especially for those with a dementing disease such as Alzheimer’s. Homemade ornaments can be made for the tree, cards for gifts can be made, or wreaths for the doors. Bake cookies together and decorate them. Go over photo albums from past holidays.
Long Distant Holiday Connection Ideas
Relocations of family and friends has changed the old fashioned holiday and those special occasion gatherings. It is hard to have a wonderful holiday when someone dear is so far away. It is just as hard on special occasions like birthdays, and personal milestones. Here are the few ideas for keeping the family connections strong even though physically your miles apart.
- Video Greetings – Children can video tape Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and send a copy to seniors. Children should take pictures of your grandchildren opening, playing with or wearing grandparents gifts to them. Children can do the same for birthdays.
- Recorded Greeting Cards – Most gift shops and discount stores have a “Record a Greeting Card” machine. They are very easy to use and kids love to have fun singing and saying something into the machine.
- Video Recordings – Holiday plays, concerts or special occasions can be shared by recording them. Young grandchildren may even wish make a tape singing the holiday songs they have learned. A poem or holiday greeting can also be recorded and sent along with photos.
- Internet Communications – the most immediate way to communicate is through the Internet, email photos and daily events, share news, recipes and fun. Instant messaging is a great surprise – “Grammie I love you” will definitely get a responding message.
- Telephone Conversations – Children should plan weekly calls during the holiday season, and they should call grandparents a special time each week, and talk for about 10 to 15 minutes, Children should share what fun things they are doing, and share their good times with them. Avoid talking about illness, or the bad things. Keep the conversations light and positive. Parents should make sure that children remember to call each grandparents on birthdays, graduations, and any days of significant importance in their lives.
- Grand Pen Pal – Remember writing Pen Pal letters when you were a kid, why not ask your children to start this way of keeping in touch with grandparents, basically telling interesting news and events from part of the world. Grandparents can respond with their news and events from their town and family. Children can send copies of their report cards and photos of their hobbies.
- Photo Journaling – Starting a journal and keeping weekly or monthly updates. Parents can help children in including pictures of the house decorations, gardens, special occasions, pets and places where they go. Children can also be asked to add news clippings that are relevant to your family and their interests. When you see your loved ones, share the journal.
- Family Reunion – Plan a weekend vacation in a place and time frame where all parts of the family can meet. Have your holiday, birthday, anniversary all at once. It may be little chaotic but it will be a memory all family members will cherish. Christmas in July isn’t such a bad idea. A family reunion is a gift of joy for all. Reunions require cooperation and coordination.
- Surprise Visit – A gift is an unexpected surprise. Parents along with children can surprise grandparents with unexpected sudden visits. If you’re not comfortable surprising them uninvited, then offer the possibility of visiting, asking what time would be good for them.
- Creative Personalized Items – Painted handprints or feet can be put on shirts, aprons, sheets, towels, and tablecloths. Grandchildren could write their name and a little saying or picture on a pillow cover and their Mom or you could hand paint over their creation with fabric paint. A family tree is another possibility, you can purchase or download one, fill in the family branches with names and birthdates. Then, frame it for a unique gift. There are many way to keep a family together even though they live far apart.
Keep Your Focus on the Most Important Things
Following are some behavioral considerations that can make holidays with seniors full of joy.
Acceptance and Respect: Accept your elder loved ones as they are, do not try to insist they change or do something for their own good. Respect their wishes, way of life, and right to be as unique and individual as you are. Nobody is perfect and no one likes to be told how they should feel or what they should do with their life.
Compromise and Cooperation: Give in a little and compromise. It is the holiday season for the whole family, so consider sharing the children, grandchildren, grandparents activities and cooperating for the good of holiday. If each family member does cooperate in some way, no one will feel slighted, left out or disappointed.
Praise and Acknowledge: An unexpected compliment does wonders to break the ice. Conversations often start when someone acknowledges something good about another person. It is infectious, “I love your dress” and “your home is decorated so beautifully”, will certainly be graciously accepted and appreciated.
Affection and Warmth: For your loved ones, hugs and kisses are usually accepted warmly. The best huggers are babies, children and elders. They all accept the warmth of a hug and squeeze without wanting to let go.
Gratitude and Grace: Count your blessings, and consider the gathering among them. Graciously accept compliments, gifts and hospitality. Think before you comment on a gift you receive. The giver has taken the time and tried their best to please you. Politely thank each person who presents you with a gift.
Compassion and Support: If you know elder loved one is having an exceptionally hard time dealing with a tragedy or crisis, offer your support and a shoulder if they should need to talk. Spend a few minutes finding out how they are, and make plans to meet in a few days to discuss their situation privately. Then attempt to change the subject to a mutual interest or help them get involved in the activities of the gathering.
Compassion and Trust: A friend, sibling, mate or pet are treasured companions. We all need a honest, open and trusting relationship with someone in our lives. So, do elderly loved one. Nurture relationship with elderly loved one with honest and open communication and commitment. The gift of loyal companionship is a blessing to embrace and not to be taken for granted.
With all these tips, cautions, and activities, we can surely not only reduce the holiday period stress of our loved one but also make holidays a great experience for our elderly people. Whenever our elderly one will reminiscence about these holidays, they will feel invaluable joy and happiness.