Tips for Successful Holiday Home Visits

The holiday season is full of hustle, bustle, favorite traditions, and delicious foods. Of course, your loved one in a senior living community wants to be part of your family’s holiday meals, events, and other traditions. However, it can seem overwhelming to find a way to include them if their medical needs have changed or if they have other new health challenges.

There are plenty of ways to adapt your events and approach in order to include your loved one. You just need a few tips from experts who have been there. We’ve got you covered with inspiration to make you confident enough to safely bring your loved one from their senior living community to your next holiday gathering.

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1. Narrow down the invitations.

Attending every family event or celebration is not necessarily realistic for you or your loved one. Instead of trying to make an appearance at everything, chat with your loved one about how full they want their holiday calendar to be. Then, you can work together to narrow down the opportunities as they see fit. to narrow down the opportunities. 

Take your loved one’s lead as they pick a few events to mark on their calendar. You can 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 a few events.

2. Communicate with the team at their senior living community.

If your loved one lives in a senior living community and is planning for a holiday home 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 when a resident is leaving for a family celebration. 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 at 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 to family home holiday celebrations. 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. Make sure you know the easiest and safest way to get your loved one into the home 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, double 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 adaptation, 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, which they can tuck 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 another type of dementia.

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 builds 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 unnerving to be a guest now. Be sure you find ways for them to help with the 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 that you can pull them out to get the activity started. Think of favorite games like dominoes or reading holiday books that have been a part of the family tradition for years. 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, 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 have planned 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 too. Your loved one will love showing off their community and introducing you to their friends and lifestyle. If possible, have a family member there for any of the special events. 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.

Plan ahead for success when it comes to senior living and holiday home visits.

With the right expert tips, you can involve your loved one at a senior living community in upcoming holiday events at home and handle other tricky situations you might be curious about. Our team is ready to give you the support and resources you need. 

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Happy holidays! Enjoy your time together as a family.

Cedarhurst residents and senior living blog

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