For most of us, holidays are a wonderful time to share the jobs of family life and friendship. But for many older adults, holidays can be highly stressful, confusing or even depressing if their mental, physical and emotional needs are not taken into account.

10 Tips for Happier Holidays

If you have elder friends and family members with underlying health issues, you can help them enjoy holidays more by following these simple tips:

1.      Stroll down memory lane: Holidays provoke memories, which can be especially powerful in the later years of life. Use picture albums, family videos and music to help stimulate memories and encourage older seniors to share their stories and experiences.

2.      Plan ahead: If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. Schedule time for a nap, if necessary, and consider designating a “quiet room” where an older person can take a break. Assign someone to be the day’s companion to the older person, to make sure they are comfortable.

3.      Eliminate obstacles: Remove slippery rugs and other items that could present barriers to someone with balance problems or who has difficulty walking.

4.      Avoid embarrassing moments: Try to avoid making comments that could inadvertently embarrass an older person who may be experiencing short-term memory problems.

5.      Create new memories: In addition to memories, seniors need new things to anticipate. Add something new to a holiday celebration.

6.      Be inclusive: Involve everyone in meal preparation, breaking down tasks to include the youngest and oldest family members.

7.      Reach out: Social circle relationships are especially important at holiday times. Reach out to older relatives and friends who are alone.

8.      Beat the blues:  “Holiday blues” are feelings of profound sadness that can be provoked by holiday activities and/or loneliness.

9.      Keep on the sunny side: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an illness provoked by reductions in sunlight. Make time for activities to increase exposure to daylight.

10.    Monitor medications and alcohol:  Help senior family members adhere to their regular schedule of medications during holidays. Pay attention to their alcohol consumption during parties and family gatherings.

Older family members with special needs can get lost in the shuffle and chaos of happy gatherings. Remember to be sensitive, loving, and to plan ahead.


About the Author

Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Complete Care Strategies