Ways you can make the holiday season a memorable one for you and the older members of your family

Picture of multigenerational family at the table for the holidays with Christmas decorations behind them.

 

In today’s world, everything seems to move at lightning speed, especially at this time of year when the holidays are upon us. Their arrival presents the illusion that they somehow come to us earlier and earlier each year and with that, no lack of expectations and planning goes into these occasions; expectations and preparations for those special gatherings, meals, and traditions with our loved ones. As you dive into the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s important to be mindful of those expectations and plans and how they affect the older members of your family, whether it’s a parent or grandparent and whether they live near, far, in independent or assisted living, or simply on their own. With the frenzied rush associated with the holiday season, it can become easy to overlook their contribution to the family traditions passed down through generations. You want to ensure lasting memories are created together with them to remind them of
the important role they hold.

One of the best and most obvious — yet sometimes forgotten — things you can do for a loved one is to give the gift of your time. How that is achieved varies depending on where they live, but making a proactive plan to be with mom or grandma on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas will go a long way. As you prepare, planning in advance and knowing your parent is important, according to Anne Zbinden, sales and marketing director of Brookdale Alamo Heights. “If your loved one has some physical disabilities or some dementia of any kind, it’s always good to check with the community that they’re in,” she said. Sometimes removal from a familiar environment isn’t always the best, because it may throw them off and cause confusion, even if it’s just for a few hours, so going to your
family member and letting them stay in the community may be easier and better. Zbinden mentioned that if someone is unsure of what to do, checking with his or her caregiver is the best option.

For those who must stay in their community, assisted living facilities do their part to provide various activities you can attend with your loved one, from dinners to parties and performances, and they assist in extending the celebration of the holidays beyond the immediate family onto the community family they have within their facility as well. If your older parent or grandparent lives on their own or within an assisted living facility either as an independent or assisted resident, you might consider picking them up for an overnight stay, for the day, or just for dinner. You could even arrange to pick them up on Christmas morning to participate in the activity of sitting in your pajamas, opening gifts, and having breakfast with family at home to guarantee they don’t miss even the smallest of traditions your family carries out.

“We want to make sure that we fulfill holiday memories, and we remember that there were times in their lives that they were not always this age,” said David Ewing, executive director of Franklin Park in Alamo Heights. He stressed the importance of inclusion in any form. Even something as simple as asking your loved one to make a special recipe can make them feel honored. “A lot of the time, being asked to participate to make that special family recipe or casserole is really so much more important to them than the actual act of doing it,” he said. Grandchildren can be included with this particular task to help mom or grandma make her special Christmas cookie, pie or brownie recipe, and this time can be used to ask her to share her own special holiday memories or share where she learned her recipe. Including them and asking them to participate becomes meaningful for them and provides a sense of purpose. This can be particularly significant to those individuals who reside in assisted living or memory care, because, as Ewing shared, at one time they were the ones hosting family events, carrying on those family traditions that are passed down through generations.

For those of us with a parent living out of town and are unable to be with him or her, or if you know a senior living on their own and may not have family around to visit at the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday, it’s best to ask a support group of friends or neighbors to check in and make sure they have plans. “I think it’s important to know who their support group is where they live,” Zbinden added.

All in all, communicating with your loved one or the support group who assists him or her will help in creating those special memories for both of you during this time of thanks, family and tradition.

BY JENNIFER O’NEILL