‘Tis the season for delicious foods, favorite traditions, and spending time with loved ones. However, it’s also a time of hustle and bustle, and the season can be over before you know it.
This season can feel overwhelming to start with, and it can be especially challenging to navigate if you have a loved one who lives in a senior living community. Of course, your loved one still wants to participate in holiday events and meals, and you want them to be there—but how do you navigate these new logistics?
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to adapt events to include your loved one. Let us be your guide through this busy season! Explore our expert tips for successful senior visits during the holidays.
1. Narrow down the invitations.
Attending every family event or celebration is not necessarily realistic. Instead of your loved one trying to make an appearance at every event, work together to determine how full they want their calendar to be and which events they don’t want to miss. Then, fill in your loved one’s calendar with the events they chose. Consider building the anticipation by reminding them to mark off the days on the calendar each time you speak with them.
Remember, it’s more about quality than quantity. Just a few events can be the perfect amount this time of year, so don’t worry if they want to skip out on some things.
2. Communicate with the team at their senior living community.
If your loved one lives in a senior living community and is planning to leave the community for a holiday visit, be sure to communicate with the staff in advance of the celebrations.
Residents can come and go from the community anytime, of course, but it’s helpful if staff members know about planned senior visits for the holidays. That way, the team can ensure your loved one is wearing their favorite clothes and looks their very best for the event. You can also get any medications or supplies they might need while they are with you from your loved one’s caregiver team.
Staying in contact with the senior living staff can also ensure your loved one isn’t missing any major holiday celebrations in the community. If they’re gone during a big celebration, team members can save a special treat or fill them in on all the details when they return.
3. Plan for safe mobility.
Your loved one’s fall risk can increase when they leave their senior living community and head out on a senior visit for the holidays. Fortunately, you can help keep them safe by planning ahead.
Make sure they have any mobility devices with them when you pick them up, such as a cane, rolling walker, or wheelchair. You might find it helpful to plan your entrance and exit at the celebration site before the event as well. Know the easiest and safest way to get your loved one into the event space as well as to and from the restroom. Remember, if your loved one uses a wheelchair, always check that the brakes are locked before any transfers.
4. Check the menu.
Food is an integral part of any family holiday celebration, and you want your loved one to enjoy their favorites. Before the event, check with the host to ensure the menu has food that your loved one enjoys and can safely eat.
If your loved one needs a particular menu accommodation, bring a specially prepared dish along with you so they can still enjoy eating with their family. You also might consider bringing a few empty individual portion containers so your loved one can take leftovers back to their community to stow in the fridge and enjoy over the next few days.
5. Arrive early and leave early.
Big family gatherings are certainly fun, but they can also be quite loud and overstimulating. This is especially true if your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Is this dementia? Learn more about the changes you're noticing and what you can do about them.Take the Assessment
Reduce the risk of anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed by planning to arrive early to the gathering. Be sure to tell the host, of course, and arrive about 15 minutes early with your loved one. This way, the excitement and volume of the gathering build slowly, which can make it easier to navigate.
Watch for signs of increasing anxiety or overstimulation, and plan on leaving before your loved one is in distress. Signs may include hand-wringing, increased confusion or agitation, wandering, or complaints of a headache. If these crop up, say goodbye and leave together. Unwind in the car with silence or a soft music playlist.
6. Find ways for them to help.
If your loved one was once the host or hostess of family gatherings, they might find it challenging to be a guest now. To help alleviate these challenges, find ways for your loved one to help with the holiday festivities.
Look for tasks that match their fine motor and cognitive skills. For example, ask if they could help out by setting the table, folding the napkins, or finishing up the mashed potatoes. Of course, if your loved one prefers to take a pass on the tasks, honor that as well. They deserve to sit back and simply enjoy the day.
7. Involve the kids.
Family events around the holidays are an excellent opportunity for intergenerational activities. Before the event, think of a few ways you can connect the kids in the family with your loved one.
Bring along a few activities with you so you can pull them out to get the fun started. Think of favorite things such as playing dominoes or reading holiday books that have been long-time family traditions. Look at old photos together. You can also have a cookie-frosting station or a gingerbread house-building competition where everyone of any age can participate.
8. Make it virtual.
Sometimes if a gathering is too far away or just doesn’t match the needs of your loved one, a virtual visit can be the perfect solution. At Cedarhurst communities, our team members are well versed in technology, frequently using community iPads and other tools to get our residents connected with family members. Simply let us know when and where to dial in, and we’ll be sure your loved one is a part of the festivities virtually.
It’s helpful if you plan a specific time for your loved one to join the party virtually. This way, it doesn’t seem as chaotic, and you can pass the phone around so your loved one can send holiday greetings without inadvertently missing anyone.
9. Enjoy holiday events at their senior living community.
Finally, if your loved one lives in a senior living community, be sure you are taking advantage of all the festivities there. Most senior living communities go all out with their holiday programming, offering multiple family night events, intergenerational programs, live concerts, and special meals.
Simply ask for a copy of their event calendar and pass it along to your family members. Your loved one will love introducing you to their friends and showing off their community and lifestyle. Also be on the lookout for any other residents who don’t have a family member attending so that your family can step in and invite them to sit at your table.
The Center of a Real, Delicious Dining Experience
Food is an integral part of holiday celebrations—and of daily life. It should be delicious as well as healthy and present an opportunity for socialization with loved ones and new friends.
Cedarhurst communities offer a real dining experience with the chance for your loved one to gather with new friends over a delicious meal. Learn more about our Crafted by CedarhurstSM program, senior nutrition, and more!