December is supposed to be a fun month for everyone. But holidays for seniors can be lonely – and even dangerous – if they’re not navigated with sensitivity and care. Older adults may face physical and emotional challenges that younger people don’t even consider. If you want to make this month more enjoyable and safer for the older adult in your life, read on to learn how you can make this holiday season happy for your loved one.
Help Older Adults Celebrate the Holidays
Try the following tips to brighten an older adult’s December:
Make things festive. Arthritis, generalized weakness, heart trouble – these are all things that can make getting around difficult for older adults. That becomes especially apparent during the holidays when they can no longer make things as festive as they used to. Offer to help your loved one with tasks like decorating around the house, wrapping gifts, and writing holiday cards – and bonus points if you remember to bring stamps to send cards.
Play holiday music. Holiday music is as much a part of the season as exchanging gifts and cards. If your loved one enjoys classic winter songs from past decades, buy them a few holiday CDs, or create a special streaming station just for them. You can even listen to these songs together as you make things festive around the house.
Get the grub on! What would this season be without traditional holiday foods? Even older adults with limited functioning can participate in things like baking cookies or basting a turkey. And if you have a big family dinner, it’s nice to honor them with a seat at the head of the table.
Make life easier. Many older adults have trouble doing everyday tasks around the house – even without the extra holiday stress and business. We know you’ve got a lot on your plate this time of year, but if you can, offer assistance to your loved one. There’s no better gift than another pair of hands to do some cooking and cleaning, take them to a doctor’s appointment, or run a few errands. If you really can’t spare a moment, consider hiring a home health aide to take on these things for you.
Help Make the Holidays Safe for Seniors
Not only is this time of the year often difficult for older adults to celebrate, it poses certain safety risks for them as well. Here’s what you can do about it:
Protect them at home. Whether in their own home or as a guest at a holiday gathering, the most innocuous objects can pose a threat to certain older adults. Do a “home inspection” [1. “Home Safety Checklist,” https://www.seniorcitizensguide.com/articles/services/Homesafety.html] for them to prevent possible falls and other accidents. If they’re attending a party or event outside the home, check with the host or organizer to see that there are no similar threats at the venue.
Don’t let them party too hard. Alcohol is a recognized form of celebration around the holidays, and older adults are no different than the rest of us when it comes to the desire to celebrate. Unfortunately, many older adults have conditions or take medications that make ingesting alcohol unwise. Check with their doctor about how much, if any, is safe for your loved one to consume and then help them stick with it.
Keep an eye on their state of mind. It’s not uncommon for people to get depressed at this time of year, and older adults are no exception. These feelings can be exacerbated by the fact that they may be homebound, isolated, and have lost many beloved friends and family members. Keep an eye out for depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)[2. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Topic Overview,” https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/tc/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-topic-overview] in older adults.
Simple Steps Can Make The Holidays Merry and Bright for Seniors
With all the other things to do this season, it’s easy to forget to make the holidays for seniors special. Older adults can get lost in the shuffle, invisible at home or large family gatherings. But with a little forethought and attention to detail, you can make sure your loved one has happy and safe memories to last throughout the year!
If you’re unsure how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.