The holidays are upon us, and many of us will make pilgrimages to our parents’ homes as time-honored tradition. Others will host their parents in their own homes. Amidst the decking of the halls, the gifts and the baking we all wish for harmonious and meaningful visits with our family members. As our parents get older, it’s especially important to be attuned to their lives. To ensure the comfort and happiness of all this holiday season, you may want to keep these tips in mind:
Try establishing a schedule and sticking to it.
Having clear expectations of who will visit and for how long will enable your parents to relax. Taking your cue from their current state of well-being as to whether children should be present or if visitation time should be limited will also help your parents. Allow plenty of down time so your parents—and you—can recharge.
Cultivate the right atmosphere.
Older adults are particularly susceptible to sensory overload. To foster a place of enjoyable companionship, limit exposure to loud or competing sounds, strong odors, or too much alcohol, coffee or sweets. Keep a comfortable temperature indoors.
Mind social cues.
Think carefully about whom to have over. Do you notice that Dad isn’t hanging out with his golf buddy anymore? Does your mom get confused or agitated when she can’t keep your friends straight? Older adults can be embarrassed when they can’t remember names sometimes, or feel they can’t keep up with some of their peers like they used to. If you sense some trepidation, keep the social circle small and intimate.
Keep a fresh eye.
Just as our parents looked out for us, it’s important to keep on top of changes in their lives. Does their house look less cared for than usual? Do lost items show up in unexpected places? Do you notice changes in mood or personality, or even grooming habits? Are your parents struggling with movement? Any of these cues should be looked into as possible areas where your parents need help. Be respectful and thoughtful about addressing these issues, and emphasize your support in being their advocate for well-being and independence.
Meet them where they are.
It’s tempting to want our loved ones to stay as they always were. We know that’s not possible, yet sometimes unconsciously we expect it. Consider instead the enormous freedom and pleasure for both parties when you simply enjoy your parents, just as they are now. This might be your best holiday gift ever, promise.
Take a breath.
Inhale, exhale. Don’t let the stresses of the holiday get in the way of meaningful time with your parents. If you keep these strategies in mind, you’ve set the stage for a wonderful holiday season indeed. Cheers!