10 Tips to Enhance a Senior’s Holiday Experience

Wednesday Oct 14th, 2020


1. Make a point of actively listening when your loved one wants to talk, even if the
discussion is negative. An honest and empathetic conversation can help them
process what is bothering them, whether they are mourning a loss or coming to
terms with new challenges in their life. It may also reveal why they are feeling
down and help you devise other ways to lift their spirits.

2. Remind them how important they are as a part of your life, your family members’
lives and these annual holiday celebrations. They may feel useless or
burdensome if they cannot contribute to or fully participate in the festivities like
they used to. Encourage them to do what they are capable of and be especially
careful not to act like what you do for them is done out of a sense of duty. Show
them they are loved.

3. Over the years, holiday cards often bring bad news and diminish in quantity. I
used to sit with my mom when she opened her cards, because so many of them
brought news of illness or death. She was also keenly aware of the people she
didn’t hear from. Be gentle with your loved ones if these annual greetings are an
important tradition of theirs. If possible, ask family members and friends to
contribute a simple card, photograph or drawing to help keep the senior’s
seasonal mail more upbeat. My mom needed this connection with her life-long
friends, so I helped her write her own outgoing cards each year as well.

4. Help your loved one see that you are trying to simplify your holiday plans to focus
on the real meaning of these celebrations. Let them know you are trying to ignore
the increasing hype over the food, gifts, decorations and parties in order to focus
on the people and values that you cherish. Remind them that they have taught
you the importance of family and friendship and thank them for that.

5. If a senior is in a long-term care facility, check with the activity’s director and local
schools or extracurricular programs to see if they can arrange for children to visit
with or even perform for the residents. New activities and interactions with
younger generations can be very uplifting for elders who are in physical or
emotional pain. If possible, take the senior out to school programs and games,
especially if they feature younger family members.

6. Check with your loved one’s religious organization to see if they can offer social
and/or spiritual support. Many churches can arrange for a congregant or leader
to visit a senior in need at home or in a facility. Just having someone to talk to
can go a long way toward relieving depression.

7. Help them add decorative touches to their home or room in the long-term care
facility. Ensure that they do not present a safety hazard and try to decorate in
stages to prolong the fun and give them something to look forward to. Many
seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack cherished decorations,
so be sure to listen to their stories and ask about special items.

8. Cook traditional baked goods or treats with your loved one, if possible. If they
reside in an assisted living facility or nursing home, bring treats on your visits for
your elder to enjoy and share with their friends. Try to make their dining table
festive, too, by using appropriate colors, themes, and seasonal flavours.

9. Call your elder’s friends and see if they would be able to come to a small holiday
gathering. One year, I was able to use a small conference room at my parents’
nursing home to host a New Year’s Eve party for them and their friends. They
loved it. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be on a particular holiday or be a
large or expensive shindig. Realizing that the people they care about came out to
spend time with them is priceless for an elder. Just be wary of large or loud
groups if your loved one has dementia. Big gatherings can be disorienting and
upsetting for them.

10. The most important thing you can do with a senior to make them feel loved and
included this season is to simply spend time with them. Look at family photos,
watch home videos or holiday movies, listen to seasonal music, or do crafts
together. Regardless of what you decide to do together, any time you can spare
is a precious gift.

Knowing how to juggle seniors and the holidays can be tough. Do what you can to help
your aging loved one feel involved and get into the holiday spirit without stressing
yourself beyond your limits. If you put too much on your plate, it is likely that neither you
nor your loved ones will enjoy the festivities nearly as much. Remember that your best
efforts are good enough.

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