Aging Right at Home: Updating Holiday Traditions With Older Loved Ones

Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].  

The holiday season is upon us, and I have no doubt the way we celebrate and interact with loved ones this year will be unlike any other year.

On top of issues related to the pandemic, many families are dealing with new health concerns of a loved one.

Regardless of your religious beliefs or family traditions, if you find yourself in this situation, you are probably looking forward to the holidays and wondering, “What am I going to do this year?” Depending on the care and need of your loved one, here are some things to consider in preparation for the holiday season.

If Your Loved One is Living With Alzheimer’s or Other Dementias

Holiday plans should be modified to accommodate their specific needs, moods and behaviors. Consider who is hosting, where the event will be and if additional help is required leading up to or during the family gathering. Individuals with dementia can become nervous in new environments or paranoid around new people or those they may not recognize.

Host the event at a home they are familiar with and limit guests outside of the direct family. This is a smart idea given the current pandemic as well. Holiday decorations can be festive and fun, but for those with cognitive impairment, they could experience them differently so keep decorative items to a minimum.

If Your Loved One is Living With Hearing Impairments

Individuals with hearing impairments can suffer from isolation in a group setting. Cross table chatter, holiday music playing or holiday movies can cause those with hearing impairments to miss out on the conversation.

Try to limit this background noise as much as possible and identify opportunities to focus and consolidate the conversation. Rather than speaking to the group in general, speak directly to each person and make sure they are aware you are speaking to them by making direct eye contact.

If Your Loved One is Living With Eye Problems

Older adults with age-related eye problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts or glaucoma require good lighting and minimal shadows. Dim lighting makes it difficult for individuals to see what they are eating and drinking as well as where they are walking. This increases the risk of spills and falls and creates unnecessary frustration for your loved ones. So, this year, the classic candlelit dinner may not be the best option!

For All Aging Seniors

The current pandemic poses an increased risk to seniors. We are all taking special precautions to help keep our loved ones and community safe, and the holiday season should be no different. Public health experts warn of indoor gatherings spreading COVID-19. Out of town guests pose increase risks due to travel, and college students home for the holidays could have been exposed in class or in their dorms.

Can loved one’s self-quarantine prior to the gathering? Could you modify your plans by mailing gifts and doing a virtual unwrapping party? Sharing childhood pictures and talking about your favorite gift you received that year could create the same feeling of nostalgia and togetherness while maintaining a safe distance.

From Our Caregivers to Your Home

As the owner and president of Right at of Home Northern Virginia, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all our talented caregivers for providing such high-quality care during such a trying year. Also, on behalf of my staff, I’d like to thank all our clients and families for trusting us with providing services for your loved ones.

If you have any questions or concerns you would like to discuss about your loved one, you can reach me directly. Happy Holidays.

Your neighbor and Owner/President of Right at Home of Northern Virginia,
Phillip Turner, CDP, CSA

Each month readers can submit questions to Phillip Turner (CSA, CDP), the Owner and Executive Director of Right At Home Northern Virginia, one of the area’s largest and longest-serving providers of in-home senior care.

As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Phillip is passionate about providing individualized care, enthusiastic management services and collaborating with other health care providers. If you have a question, please submit to [email protected].