Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Help Your Senior Avoid Having a Blue Christmas

Well, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” according to Mathis, Williams, Sinatra and so many others.  The holiday season is upon us.

For most of us, the holidays are a wonderful time to gather with family and friends sharing memories, laughs, and good cheer.  But for many seniors the holidays can be stressful, confusing, and depressing depending on their mental, physical and emotional needs.  Family members are often very busy with their lives and social obligations that they fail to notice how much their parents or grandparents look forward to spending time with them during the holidays.  Many seniors have outlived friends and family members which can make the holidays painful.  They can get lost in the chaos of happy family gatherings putting them at risk for the ‘Holiday Blues’.

‘Holiday Blues’ are feelings of profound sadness brought on by all the activities of the holiday season.  Seasonal blues can have an impact on all of us particular in the lives of older people.  It can impact your physical health, impair your memory and concentration, and prevent you from enjoying the holidays.

Help your loved one enjoy the holiday season by planning ahead.  If you’re loved one tire easily limit the number and the length of time with activities.  The noise and confusion can lead to exhaustion so designate a ‘quiet room’ where your loved one can take a break or a nap.  Be sure to keep medications at their regular schedule during these frenzy times.

If a holiday get together is held in their home do not rearrange the furniture of a loved one with memory impairment or behavioral problems.  This will cause confusion and anxiety.  If gathering in a place unfamiliar to them remove throw rugs and items that could make it difficult for someone with balance problems or who has difficulty walking.

Seniors whose memories are impaired may have difficulty remembering recent events, but they often are able to share stories and observations from the past. Children enjoy hearing how it was ‘when your parents were your age’.  I suggest using picture albums and watch old Christmas programs on TV to help stimulate memories and encourage older seniors to share their stories and experiences.

Try to avoid making comments that could embarrass your loved one who may be experiencing dementia problems.  They may forget a recent conversation or repeat sentences they have already told you, we need to be careful so we don’t make it worse by saying “Don’t you remember?” or “You already said that!”

A holiday is still a holiday whether it is celebrated at home, senior supportive apartments, or an assisted living home.  So, with all the hustle and bustle of the season, just remember to be sensitive and loving.  And plan ahead.
Lori Schuler is Marketing and Activity Director for Pioneer Place supportive Apartments
and North Haven Assisted Living Homes

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