The holidays mean different things to different people, but for most of us, they are very much about family. We’re likely to see our aging parents and relatives over the holidays, and if they are lonely, or beginning to have trouble living independently, the holidays can be a difficult and stressful time. If we approach this time with our parents with both a positive and proactive attitude, we can make our visit joyful for all.
The CHEER plan stands for
It is a plan that can help you make the most of your time with aging parents and loved ones over the holidays.
1. CHECK on your older loved one’s well-being.
Especially if you haven’t visited in a while. When we see someone every day, we may not notice health changes because they happen gradually. On the other hand, when we visit seniors whom we haven’t seen in a while, it may be starkly obvious that they need help. If you’re visiting your parents in their home, check their refrigerator and pantry to make sure they’re eating fresh, healthy food. Survey the overall safety of their home, assuring that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have batteries, and that the rooms don’t have fall hazards. Even if you don’t visit your older loved one’s home, you can watch for health issues involving chewing and swallowing, mobility and gait, mental clarity and vision. In a Huffington Post article, A Place for Mom’s CEO, Sean Kell, outlines more advice about how to take stock of a loved one’s health and well-being over the holidays.
2. HELP your loved ones stay engaged.
Seniors who live alone can suffer from depression due to limited mobility in the winter months. Be inclusive and invite older relatives and family friends to your celebration, offering transportation if they need it. Older loved ones may need emotional support during this time. Make sure they are comfortable and not overburdened with preparations. If an older loved one seems lonely, take time to listen. Are they missing family members who have passed away or the way things used to be at holidays of the past?
3. EMPOWER your loved one to live independently.
While helping is important, it’s also important that our older loved ones have the knowledge, support and tools needed to live independently when our visit is over. If you are concerned about your loved one’s safety, teach them skills that help to compensate for deficits. Also make sure there is a local support system for your loved one, and set them up with resources to help them stay safe at home, such as meal delivery services, mobility devices and medical alarms.
4. ENJOY your time together.
After you have ensured that your older loved ones are safe and happy, relax and focus on making the most of the holidays and your time together. Encourage group activities to get your family moving; dance to some favorite tunes or take an evening stroll through the neighborhood to see the lights. By all means be merry, but be mindful that alcohol may dangerously interact with medications.
5. REMINISCE with loved ones.
Many of our fondest memories from childhood and youth are episodes from holidays past. Allow older loved ones to get nostalgic and reminisce over the holidays and about the holidays. Even seniors with advanced memory loss retain long-term memories, and may be able to speak vividly about a Christmas more than 50 years ago. Get out photo albums, family videos and holiday music that bring the past to life for elderly people.