For many of us, the holidays are time of fun and festivities – eating great meals, seeing friends and family, and generally being merry. For some older adults, however, the holidays can be a source of stress, anxiety and depression due to different cognitive, emotional, and physical needs. There are many ways to meet these challenges in order to create the best experiences possible for the seniors in your life this season.
Older people whose memories may be impaired, are often able to recall memories more easily than recent events. Ask them for stories, remind them of funny, touching, or memorable events and ask them to share their stories and experiences.
Many seniors tire easily and are vulnerable to over-stimulation which can lead to irritability and exhaustion. Build rest and quiet time into the activities to allow them to take a break from the activities.
Do not embarrass
Being asked ‘Don’t you remember?’ is an uncomfortable and potentially humiliating experience that seniors should be spared. Listen to what they do remember and build from there. Try to redirect conversations that become frustrating when memories cannot be recalled.
Many older adults, as well as those with social anxiety or depression, may express a wish to be alone. Invite them to be a part of the occasion. Assign small jobs to give a sense of purpose and belonging. Peeling potatoes, watching the turkey, keeping an eye on the kids, putting out the napkins – the options are limited only by imagination.
Monitor medications and alcohol
While this is certainly true for everyone, it is especially important for seniors. Ensure that medications are taken at prescribed times during this busy season. Alcohol can exacerbate inappropriate behavior and interact negatively with medication, so moderate intake or encourage abstinence. (Again, true for all of us.)
Many of these tips can be applied to seniors, as well as young children and adults with mental, emotional, and physical health issues.
Please share your tips to include seniors in your holiday schedule so that others may benefit.