If you have older friends or family members about whom you are concerned this holiday season, you can help them enjoy the December festivities more by following these ten simple suggestions:
Reminisce about past memories and experiences. Gathering with family and friends and following holiday traditions can be especially meaningful in the later years of life. According to Barry Lebowitz, Ph.D. and deputy director of UCSD’s Stein Institute for Research on Aging, “Leading authorities have observed that memory and ‘life review’ are important parts of the aging process. Older people whose memories are impaired may have difficulty remembering recent events, but they are often able to share stories and observations from the past.” He suggests using picture albums, family videos, and even theme songs from old radio or TV programs, to help stimulate memories and encourage older seniors to share their stories and experiences.
Monitor overall mood. As people grow older, they tire more easily and are vulnerable to over-stimulation. For instance, the noise from a large family gathering can lead to irritability and exhaustion. To ensure your loved one remains comfortable, schedule a time for a nap or designate a “quiet room” where he or she can take a break from the group.
Eliminate potential obstacles within the home. If you are hosting a holiday gathering in the home of an aging adult with memory impairment or behavioral problems, don’t rearrange the furniture. Rearranging the floor layout can cause confusion and anxiety. If the get-together will be held in another person’s home, make sure that any floor rugs, wires or other potential tripping hazards are removed, especially if your loved one has balance problems or difficulty walking.
Avoid embarrassing moments. If your loved one has been experiencing short-term memory loss, don’t embarrass the individual by saying “Don’t you remember?” if he or she forgets a recent conversation or memory.
Create new memories. For seniors who live alone or don’t get out of the house much, having something new and exciting to look forward to can be a great mood-lifter. Take your loved one on a drive to look at holiday lights and decorations or take him or her to a holiday play; many times a community center or place of worship will put on a holiday-themed play or performance.
Be inclusive. Even though older adults may have some physical limitations, it’s important to still include them in holiday activities. For example, if you are preparing food for a holiday party, ask your loved one to help with folding napkins or arranging flowers.
Promote social connectivity. Social connectedness is especially important during the holidays. “Reaching out to older relatives and friends who are alone is something all of us should do,” Lebowitz says. “Loneliness is a difficult emotion for anyone. Recent research with older people has documented that loneliness is associated with major depression and with suicidal thoughts and impulses.”
Keep spirits high. If you notice that your loved one is displaying prolonged signs of depression, consult with a licensed psychologist to see if he or she needs further evaluation and help.
Get outdoors. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression, is an illness associated with decreased sunlight during the winter months. It is important for people confined indoors, especially those at risk for SAD, to make time for activities that will increase exposure to sunlight such as taking a walk around the block or holiday shopping at an outdoor mall.
Monitor medications and alcohol consumption. With the frenzy of the holiday season, be sure to help your loved one adhere to his or her medication schedule. Also pay careful attention to his or her alcohol consumption during holiday gatherings; alcohol not only lowers inhibitions which can result in embarrassing behavior, but more important, it can interfere with the efficacy of many of the medications that older adults frequently take.
For those family caregivers who feel they need a break, we are here to help make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable for you and your loved ones! Our caregivers will not only provide cheer this holiday season, but they can help with a variety of holiday tasks.
For more information, contact Michael Rothenberger at 317.581.1901 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.