It can be difficult to enjoy the holidays when a family member is elderly or disabled. What is deemed the “happiest time of the year” by many can bring extra stress to parents of disabled children and adults, along with adult children of elderly. Here are 7 tips to keep the holidays happy for everyone in your family.
1. Remind your loved one how important they are as part of your celebration.
Take the time to remind your loved one what is important about the holidays, being sure to include them. Explain why you want to include them in your celebration of the holidays and explain how you will be celebrating with them.
2. Spend time with your loved one.
For some seniors, the friends and family many past holidays were spent with are no longer around. This can make it difficult for your elderly loved ones to bear the holidays, and this can be an extremely lonely time. Make sure to spend time with your loved one and include them in any family holiday events. This is especially important if your loved one lives in an assisted living facility or nursing home, where there may be few decorations or holiday festivities.
3. Be prepared for visitors.
If you invite your elderly or disabled loved ones to your home for the holidays, be sure to take precautions. They could easily fall on tripping hazards, stairs without rails or non-slip treads, or ill-placed furniture. Be sure to consider their health and safety when readying the home for visitors.
4. Be wary of sensory overload.
For some elderly and disabled individuals, the disruption of a normal routine, including unfamiliar sights and smells, crowds, lights, and a house full of noise, can overload the senses and lead to a very unhappy holiday. Be considerate when decorating your home and planning holiday events to ensure everyone can enjoy the party. Make sure to leave at least one room of your home holiday-free to serve as a resting place should your loved one become overwhelmed and need a break.
5. Inform family members and friends ahead of time.
Talking to family members and friends in advance about the behavior and specific needs of your loved one can help to keep the holidays calm. Ask family members for their support and let them know how they can help to make the holidays a good experience for everyone. This could include keeping noise levels down at family gatherings and giving the individual tasks to complete throughout the day or night to keep them busy and focused.
6. Keep plans simple.
Those with certain disabilities may have a stronger ability to sense stress levels. Keeping your holiday plans simple can ensure that you and your loved one can enjoy the holidays together.
7. Listen to your loved one.
Listen to your loved one’s concerns and questions about the holidays. These will likely be different for each individual, but should each be carefully considered and answered. Answering your loved one’s questions can help them to better understand the holidays and why there is a celebration.
Keep in mind the specific needs of your loved one and design your holiday celebrations in a way that includes and celebrates the uniqueness of your elderly or disabled loved one.