How to Make a Senior’s Holidays Merry and Bright

senior holiday

The hustle and bustle of the holidays may leave you feeling like you need a nice vacation in a tropical place, far, far away from Minneapolis. But for a senior, quite the opposite may be true. The lack of activity and involvement for retirees who no longer need to sprint from Thanksgiving to New Years can create a completely different set of challenges. And with their relatives even busier than usual, Minnesota seniors may have even less quality time and companionship than during the rest of the year.

In this blog we’ll share some tips for reducing holidays stress for yourself and the senior in your life, and finding ways to share quality time. Our Caregivers here at Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis incorporate these ideas into their time with clients.

Be Aware of the Holiday Blues

Holiday time can be a time of joy and splendor, but often our expectations can be set so high that it is difficult for the actual events to measure up. Add the challenges of aging, traditions and activities that may have come and gone, the loss of friends and loved ones, and you have a recipe for “holiday blues.”

Tips and considerations:

  • Be aware of sudden changes in mood. The symptoms of an elder’s mood swings can include a lack of interest in activities, difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual, or a loss of appetite. Ensuring that you check in regularly is key.
  • English: this images shows the use of light bo...In addition to holiday-related sadness, seniors can experience seasonal moodiness due to less exposure to sunlight. Called “seasonal affective disorder” or “SAD”, this type of depression affects many elderly people in the fall and winter months, especially in Minnesota. Keep in mind that anything more than a mild case of the blues is a reason to get a physician’s evaluation. There may be supplements or medications that can help.
  • Encourage your senior to talk about his or her feelings and memories. Just having an outlet for chatting about those feelings might make a difference.
  • Create opportunities for silliness. Laughter really is one of the best medicines. Watching movies together like “Grumpy Old Men” (filmed right here in Minnesota) can help you to have some laughs over the foibles of aging.

Cover of "Grumpy Old Men"

Schedule Simple, Fun Visits

The simple things matter. Factoring in even a brief get together to chat or do a fun activity can make a huge difference in the life of someone with few involvements.

Tips and considerations:

  • Put a regular time on your calendar to get together with your senior throughout the holidays season.
  • Take a coffee break together.
  • Decorate a small table top tree.
  • Write and prepare holiday cards for mailing.
  • Play a game of cards or work on a puzzle.
  • Bring your senior to your Minneapolis or St. Paul home for holiday dinner.
  • Invite Mom or Dad and their home care Caregiver to your child’s holiday program or party. That way, you and your loved one will get to participate in fun events.

Doing these activities will help you to slow down too. Scheduling a short break for some fun can help you relax, catch your breath, and even create some special memories that will help you feel more grounded and less frenzied.

Arrange for Safe, Stress-Free Outings

When preparing for an outing with your senior, be sure to pack along any necessary supplies to ensure that you account for the Minnesota weather, the senior’s health neds and unexpected situations.

Tips and considerations:

  • Slow down and remember that everything takes longer during the busy holiday season when more people are on the road and in the stores.
  • Ask your home health care company if your senior has a medication regimen or needs insulin shots at meal time, then make sure that you have these items on hand, along with a list of medications and the physician’s contact information.
  • If your senior needs special items like a walker, a cane or oxygen, make sure you plan for those items and the extra time needed for getting them in and out of your vehicle.
  • Bring warm gear and an emergency kit that can help you keep the senior warm and comfortable, in the event of a car stall, flat tire or accident, while you are waiting for assistance.
  • In icy or snowy conditions, be sure to have traction devices and items like a bucket of sand and a shovel to avoid sliding or getting stuck in the snow.

Create Pleasant Conditions

If you are bringing an elderly guest to a social engagement, such as a holiday party or a weekend with relatives, think about how to create pleasant conditions for the senior, both for travel and for the destination.

  • Bring a blanket in the car for staying warm. In very cold climates car heaters often cannot create a truly comfortable temperature for a senior.
  • Prepare the host or relatives for the arrival of the senior by ensuring that there will be a quiet place to rest if the gathering of the crowd, or the exuberant sounds of small children become overwhelming.
  • If your senior guest has any dietary restrictions, make sure that there will be appropriate fare at the venue.
  • Create a comfortable place for your senior to sit, even if most people are standing and mingling.
  • Invite involvement by asking the senior to share a special story or memory with others at the gathering.
  • Check in with the senior to determine when he or she has had plenty of excitement and is ready to leave the festivities.

Christmas gifts.

Save Time

With all the cooking and preparation going on, it may seem like you need more than 24 hours a day to get it all done. Think about ways to save time and consolidate activities.

Tips and considerations:

  • As you’re cooking, double up a batch here and there. Freeze casseroles and leftovers in small portions that can be warmed for an easy nutritious meal for your senior.
  • Writing cards? When writing cards to relatives and friends known by your senior, consider adding their greeting to your cards.
  • Wrapping gifts? Think about doing so while chatting or watching a movie with your senior loved one to share some time together.
  • Do one less thing. Maybe that last run to the store can be forfeited for a little relaxation time, a phone call or visit to your senior loved one, or some time singing holiday carols together.
  • Consider hiring home respite care which allows you a “break” and ensures that your loved one is and taken care of.

Create New Memories

Lingering memories can be wonderful and sometimes painful. If old traditions no longer happen due to physical limitations or loss of certain family members, it may be time to create some new special memories.

Tips and considerations:

  • Think about ways to revive some of the past traditions in a new way. For example, if you used to have a holiday ice skating tradition, perhaps you could go and watch the ice skaters and drink hot cocoa.
  • Do some window shopping and browse holiday window displays at big department stores.
  • Take a tour of beautiful holiday lights or ask your senior’s home care provider to oblige. You can usually find a Minneapolis neighborhood or two that really puts on a show.
  • Establish a “white elephant” gift exchange over tea to make gift giving pleasurable and low-stress.

Just remember that one of the most important gifts you can give an elderly person is the gift of time. Enjoying time together, whether for an hour or an afternoon, will bring the magical light of the holiday season into a senior’s life.