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Enjoying the Holidays with Senior Loved Ones

Resources for Families

You’ve been gathering with family members to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas for as long as you can remember… but this year, things are different.

Your mom’s dementia is worsening, and she’s becoming more and more frail. You worry that she may not be able to make it and, if she does, that she won’t enjoy the family gathering.

What should you do?

“The holidays can be particularly challenging for older loved ones who have memory or mobility issues,” said Teresa Steinfatt, Vice President of Business Performance at Trail Ridge Home Care’s partner, the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “It’s important for family members to be aware of the challenges and make a plan to cope with them – so that their older loved ones feel included and not burdensome.”

Steinfatt offers these tips to help you and your family make the holidays joyous for everyone.

Plan ahead. Clear clutter, move furniture and pick up throw rugs to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs and eliminate tripping hazards. If your aging loved ones tire easily, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. The noise and confusion of a large family gathering can lead to irritability, confusion or exhaustion, so make sure they have a quiet space to retreat to, if necessary.

Modify festivities as needed. Come up with ways to continue long-standing traditions – perhaps with slight changes to accommodate your aging loved ones. Be sure to account for potential challenges with meals and other activities for those with mental, physical or dietary issues.

Ask your loved ones to reminisce. Seniors with memory issues may have trouble remembering recent events, but they’re often able to recall stories from the past. Break out family albums, videos and music to help stimulate their memory and encourage them to share the holiday stories and experiences they remember.

Create new traditions. Consider adding something new to your celebrations – activities that will be easy for your older loved ones to participate in, such as baking, decorating, holiday crafts or driving through neighborhoods to see the holiday lights.

Acknowledge feelings of grief. The holidays often bring back memories of family members and friends who have passed away. Understand that, while it’s a festive time, your aging loved ones may also be experience feelings of grief and sadness.

Monitor diet, alcohol and medications. Holiday celebrations can be chaotic, but try to keep your older loved ones on their regular meal and medication schedule. Make sure everyone is aware of dietary restrictions and limit alcohol intake, as it can affect balance, mobility and some medications.

Find ways to have long-distance celebrations. If travel challenges or other circumstances keep you from being with your aging loved ones, look for other ways to celebrate with them – such as FaceTime or Zoom.

“While the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year for most of us, it can be just the opposite for seniors,” Steinfatt said. “Taking a few, simple steps now will help you overcome some the challenges, so family members of all ages can have a great time.”

To learn about Trail Ridge Home Care services designed to help seniors age safely in their homes, visit or call 605-231-8141.