If this is your loved one’s first year in a long-term care community, the holidays can be a stressful time. Even if they’ve lived there for some time, it can still be difficult. Your celebrations will be different from how they were in years past—but “different” doesn’t have to mean “worse.”
Here are some tips to help you plan for the holidays with a loved one in long-term care.
Making the Most of the Holidays in a Senior Living Community
1. Decorate the room or suite.
Deck out your loved one’s room just like you would their old house. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, make decorating a family affair.
It’s also a good idea to incorporate pictures of previous holiday celebrations. That way, Mom or Dad can be filled with warm thoughts of time spent with family and friends.
2. Encourage your loved one to join community events.
Senior living communities do everything they can to provide residents with fulfilling and entertaining holiday celebrations. Encourage your parent or loved one to join in the holiday events, from choir group performances to Christmas tree lighting ceremonies to Thanksgiving meals.
Review the community’s events calendar together and share copies with loved ones. Plan to have various family members join your mom or dad for the events that are the most appealing to them. And don’t forget to include the grandkids. Residents love the opportunity to show them off!
3. Create a family visitor calendar for the holidays.
It can be as simple as setting up a private group on Facebook or using Google calendars. Ask loved ones to sign up for various days throughout the holiday season. This helps prevent your loved one from having multiple visitors on some days and none on other days.
4. Prepare family members for any changes in Mom or Dad.
If you have any relatives that live out of town and haven’t seen Mom or Dad since they moved into long-term care, they may not be prepared to see the changes in their loved one. Take some time to have a talk with your relatives and catch them up with any relevant health issues.
For example, if Dad is having memory problems, coach them on how to best communicate with someone who has dementia. If Mom has lost a lot of weight, prepare them for that so they don’t make any surprised comments when they first see her.
Also, consider writing out some instructions on how to get to the room or suite your parent is in. The staff at the community will certainly be glad to help them find the right room, but it can put them more at ease if they have an idea of where they’re going.
5. Talk with your parent about their feelings this holiday season.
Esther Heerema, MSW, advises that you have a conversation with your parent about spending the holidays in long-term care. Hereema is a licensed social worker who has worked extensively with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
“You know that phrase about the elephant in the room? Acknowledge it. Your family member may need to process the changes from last year and talk extensively about what she is missing out on this year,” Hereema says. “She also might appreciate hearing that you'll miss her amazing turkey stuffing that she makes every year, or just that you will be missing her.”
6. Take them home to join your celebrations.
If their health allows it and you live within a reasonable difference from the community, take them home for the big day. If you have other relatives coming to your house to celebrate, ask if they can pick up your parent so you don’t have to fit it in your busy schedule of holiday preparations.
7. Take some time for yourself.
This is the most important rule when planning for the holidays with a loved one in a long-term care community. AgingCare offers these holiday tips for caregivers:
- Take a break when you feel yourself getting stressed.
- Ask for help from family members and friends.
- Make a to-do list to help yourself stay organized.
- Simplify your holiday plans. Decide which traditions are too much work and let them go.
- Accept imperfection. Feel like you’re not doing enough? Nobody is perfect. Do your best and accept the rest.
Making the Most of Long-Term Care Year-Round
When seniors are no longer able to live on their own and need daily help, a long-term care community is often the best place for them. The holidays may make you feel a little blue that Mom or Dad is no longer at home, but remember that they are in a place where they’re safe and their needs are being well-cared for.
If you have a loved one in long-term care, these resources may help during the holidays and year-round: