Lois Helinsky is excited to know she will be spending Christmas with her granddaughter and her extended family but she is also a bit anxious about it. “I’m not used to all kinds of food and activity so it can throw me for a bit of a loop. I’m just not as adaptable as I once was – you find this as you get older,” she told her granddaughter Jessica.
Stress and anxiety may be status quo for most of us during the holiday season, but we don’t always stop and consider that even our aging loved ones, who have less responsibilities, can be overwhelmed by the hype and hustle of the holiday season. Add to that, seniors commonly experience depression at this time of year, as they revisit old memories and mourn the losses and change of times. Being mindful that our seniors are “not as adaptable” as they once were, is a good mantra, as we look for ways to include them in our holiday plans.
To help reduce the stress and ensure that your aging loved one stays healthy and enjoys the holidays, keep these tips in mind:
1) Don’t overdo it!
More might be better when you’re young, but when you’re old, more is simply too much. In other words carefully consider your loved one’s limitations. Do they do well around loud noise and crowds? Do they need to rest often? If so, plan to include them only in the calmer aspects of your festivities, or at the very least, if it’s high hype time then provide them with the means to retreat when they have had enough.
2) Be mindful of rich food and alcohol
Whether they are living independently or in an assisted living residence, your loved one is likely not used to eating rich main courses and decadent deserts. Help them to limit themselves so they don’t end up with major stomach upsets. Also consider offering alcohol-free beverages as many medications warn of side-effects when mixed with alcohol.
3) Sprinkle in activity and plenty of water
If your senior has a routine that typically includes some form of exercise or activity, take care to keep this up when they are in your company. Also ensure they drink plenty of water – essential for all of us but even more critical for people as they age.
4) Allow for rest and quiet time
If you aging loved one is staying with you for an extended period, build in lots of time for rest and solitude. The fast-paced nature of many people’s lives around Christmas is not likely to be normal or comfortable for most seniors – no matter how much they express interest and willingness to take part. Provide gaps for quiet and even some alone time if possible.
5) Ask and listen
You can’t fully understand what it feels like to be old until you are there yourself. Consequently it is absolutely imperative that you check in with your aging loved one frequently. Ask if they are doing okay, of there is anything you can get for them, or if there are any adjustments you can make to help them be more comfortable.
Listen well to their answers and pay careful attention to cues they are sending. Most of all respect and honour their wishes.
If you remind yourself that all good things come to pass, you will be well-guided by your instincts to make the best of each and every occasion you get to share with your aging loved ones. And don’t forget to be present in the moment. Life is now… enjoy!
For more on helping your senior loved one cope with holiday stress visit: