To Grandmother's House We Go...
Many families traditionally travel over the river and through the woods to reach Grandmother's (and Grandfather's) house for holiday festivities. While the thought of everyone together under one roof may seem like a joyous time to visit, reminisce and create new memories, it can often be one of the most stressful times of the year for seniors.
Most seniors become entrenched in their own quiet-but-steady routines as they grow older, and the disruption of an established schedule can cause confusion and anxiety. Sometimes even the hustle and bustle of company for a day can be exhausting for seniors. These times can be equally stressful for caregivers of seniors who are expecting company over the holidays. However, there are several strategies that help the holidays be a stress-free, enjoyable time for all.
Plan to share holiday meal preparations.
For grandparents, the feeling of having to prepare an entire meal for many people can be overwhelming. The thought of cleaning the kitchen afterward may be downright depressing for any caregiver. A way to alleviate this pressure is to coordinate with other guests by asking them to bring a traditional holiday dish for all to enjoy. Assigning cleanup duty in advance and taking turns with others will allow all to participate equally in work and play.
Be sure to schedule quiet time for all.
This is especially important if small children are participating in holiday activities. Many older adults are not used to the otherwise endearing antics of children. Taking the kids out of the house, or putting them down for a rest, provides seniors valuable downtime. If napping is part of a senior's daily routine, continuing to do so is important to her physical and mental health.
Limit gift giving or replace this tradition with sentimental alternatives.
Many seniors living on limited budgets may worry that purchasing presents will not fall within their monetary limits. Instead of purchasing gifts, ask family members to write down a memory or reflection to share. Large families often draw names instead of purchasing gifts for everyone. Simple ideas such as these also steer the holiday spirit in the direction of the holiday itself, instead of focusing on gift giving.
Keep an eye on your loved one.
Sometimes it takes a special eye to notice that a senior is feeling displaced, overly tired or in need of something special to do. Assign someone in the family to keep watch over your loved one to be sure his needs are being met.
Ask for help!
If you are a primary caregiver for the senior in your life, consider hiring a respite care provider to allow you to focus on holiday preparations in your own home. Caregivers are available to help with light housekeeping, grocery shopping, addressing holiday cards and arranging decorations. Having help with the "small stuff" can be a great relief, allowing seniors and family caregivers to look forward to the holiday festivities instead of feeling overburdened.
When making plans to visit with elderly loved ones over the holidays, consideration of even the smallest detail is essential. Communicate clearly and honestly with your loved ones and their caregivers about seniors' needs and limitations. Keep in mind that many plans can be altered subtly, so seniors do not realize special provisions are being made for them. A bit of thought and careful preparation minimizes stress, so the holidays can be fun and enjoyable for all.
Comfort Keepers (2009). From Stress to Success. comfortkeepers.com/node/12545
Morris, Kelly (2007). Associated Content. An Elderly Caregiver's Guide to Coping with Holiday Stress associatedcontent.com/article/429876/an_elderly_caregivers_guide_to_coping.html?singlepage=true&cat=72
Race, Brenda. Today's Caregiver. Coping with Holidays as a Caregiver. caregiver.com/articles/holiday/coping_with_holidays.htm