Five Tips for Making a Senior’s Holiday Visit Happy and Stress-Free

What’s the greatest gift you can give to your senior parents and friends at this time of year?

If they’re visiting your home for a big holiday event, the greatest gift you can give them is a worry-free day to enjoy spending time with people they love.

Whether it’s Christmas dinner or a family party, making a magical holiday for senior loved ones means looking after their safety and wellbeing – not just their physical wellbeing, but their emotional wellbeing, too.

They key to a magical holiday is preparation. By asking yourself some simple questions before hosting an event, you can anticipate many of the needs your senior guests will have while visiting your home. That way, they – and you – can focus on having fun and enjoying each other’s company this holiday season.

Here are five questions to ask before the big day:

  1. Will my parents be able to get around my home? Is it “senior safe?”
    Before welcoming a senior loved one into your home, take a quick survey of your surroundings for potential challenges.

    • Clear entryways of leaves and other debris.
    • Remove trip hazards, such as wires, decorative items, and pet toys that may be difficult to see. Be sure to clear hallways and stairwells.
    • Check the restroom, and make sure that essential items are all easily within reach. If your senior loved one requires adaptive devices such as an elevated commode seat or portable grab bar, have these in place ahead of time. Many of these items can be rented or purchased online.
    • If your loved one uses a walker or wheelchair, check for narrow pathways (especially around furniture) that may not accommodate their devices. Ensure that they will have easy access to restrooms and comfortable seating.
    • Arrange seating at the dinner table so that senior guests have comfortable, supportive chairs, and can easily sit down without navigating tight spaces.
    • Designate a quiet area such as a den or first floor bedroom where your senior guests can rest if needed.
    • Have a plan for pets. Even well behaved pets can be underfoot, and may get riled up with a group of people in their home. Consider corralling pets in one area of your home for the event.
  2. What will help my parents feel included and valued?
    Holidays are such fun and joyful times, but they can also bring about difficult emotions as roles change. Creating an environment where seniors feel valued and important will help keep the day fun and positive.

    • Anticipate as many physical needs as possible and have a solution in place. Some seniors may feel embarrassment having extra attention drawn to their needs during a celebration.
    • Ask your parent to contribute something meaningful to the celebration. That could be a serving piece, a special decoration from their collection, leading a prayer, or making a toast.
    • Prepare one of your loved one’s favorite holiday recipes.
    • Make gift giving more fun and joyful by using gift bags instead of difficult to unwrap gifts.
    • Set realistic expectations about how long they will be comfortable participating in an activity. Disruptions in routine can be challenging for seniors who are becoming frail, especially those who are experiencing memory related challenges. Make the highlight of the event –whether that is a meal or a gift exchange – earlier rather than later so that everyone can enjoy it.
  3. Who else is attending, and how can they help?
    Accommodating senior relatives along with other guests is big job. But, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Review the guest list and assign “helpers” for each part of the day. For example:

    • Assign a family member with a larger car or minivan to drive your parents to and from your home.
    • During the meal, seat your parent near a family member who can help with heavier serving dishes and ensure that everything they need is in place at the table.
    • Enlist a helper to make sure kids’ toys are kept out of the way.
    • Ask an animal lover in the group to keep an eye on pets who may need to be walked or fed.
  4. Is the menu “senior safe?”
    Many seniors have dietary restrictions due to medications or health conditions. Common restrictions include lower salt and heart-healthy diets. Seniors with dentures or swallowing difficulties may need to avoid certain foods that are hard to chew or swallow.

    • Familiarize yourself with your loved one’s dietary restrictions. Simple accommodations, like using less salt in a dish, can help make food safer and more enjoyable.
    • When serving sweets, offer alternatives to sticky or crunchy candies that may be difficult to enjoy.
    • If possible, use smaller serving dishes that are easier to manage.
    • Consider whether your parent requires adaptive devices at the table, such utensils and drinking glasses that are easier to hold.
  5. Will they need medications during the event?
    Depending on the length of the event, your parent may need to take medication while at your home.

    • If they are visiting from a senior community, notify the community in advance so that the staff can have medications packed and ready to go.
    • If they are visiting from their own home, remind the person driving them to check that they’ve brought their medications.

After the Big Day

There is one more question to ask after the holidays have passed: has anything changed since last year? Take stock of whether your parents have changed since last year – physically, emotionally, or mentally – and talk with other family members about what you notice.

Looking after senior a loved one can be a challenge, especially during the busy holiday season. But with a little planning and preparation, you can make a magical holiday for the special seniors in your life.

All of us at Sunnyside Manor wish you a very happy and safe holiday season, and a healthy new year.

Getting the Help You Need

Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, we are here to help. Begin with our “Getting Started” guide, or call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.

The all new Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care and Skilled Nursing.

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