Control the Chaos: Making Holidays Bright for Seniors

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The holiday season brings excitement, togetherness and feelings of warmth and belonging for most of us. It’s a time to celebrate family and friends and be grateful for all we have. For seniors, though many share the same feelings we do, the holidays can be overwhelming, especially for those with dementia.

If you’re hosting an elderly friend or family member over the holidays, keep these tips in mind to help them enjoy their holidays to the fullest.

Be mindful of overstimulation. For those with dementia, and even some without it, overstimulation is a common concern. When there are too many people, too much noise and too many things going on, seniors can get overwhelmed. It can be hard for them to know what to focus on, challenging to hear with lots of commotion and difficult to recognize some people.

  • Tips: Do your best to keep noise levels down, especially background noise like music and television. Consider giving everyone cute nametags to make conversation easier for seniors with memory impairment. And if it’s all just too much, take your loved one for a quiet stroll or offer a spare bedroom for a midday nap.

Realize that varying schedules and routines can be hard. Holidays aren’t usually scheduled like our typical days. We may sleep a little later or wake earlier to get cooking done. Mealtimes may vary, or we may do heavy hors d’euvres instead of a sit-down meal. Our routines are generally shaken up a bit, which for many of us is a welcome break. For seniors, though, it can be more challenging.

  • Tips: Before the holidays, take a look at your elderly family member’s daily schedule and see how much you can maintain. Can you schedule meals at the same time? Could you travel during naptime to allow for their regular downtime? And make sure you remember to provide medication at their normal times.

Be aware of things that can cause stress. Being overwhelmed with holiday tasks and gatherings can cause anxiety in the lives of seniors. Traveling to unfamiliar settings can make them feel uneasy. Many worry about being able to handle all the decorating, entertaining and gift-giving tasks the holidays bring. When memory lapses and bodies slow down, everyday tasks can be more challenging.

  • Tips: As your family is scheduling events, carefully choose locations. Would it make your loved one more comfortable to have the gathering at his or her home? To ease the stress you could arrange the food and have everyone bring a dish. Could someone go over early in the season and help with decorating?

With a little advanced planning, you can make the holidays bright for everyone, especially the seniors in your life.

If you know of anyone needing estate liquidation, decluttering, organizing or perhaps moving from or into an independent living, assisted living or memory care community, know that OHCIH can help with the transition. Please visit us on our web site

Blessings to all,

Barbara L. Stohlman