As the holidays approach and life becomes especially busy, it’s important to remember our aging parents.
Joey’s mother sat in her recliner by the fireplace. “Mom, let’s put up your Christmas tree.”
“Don’t bother. No one to enjoy it.” She slumped deep into her chair. “I get so I start dreading the holidays in the middle of summer.”
Joey’s mother isn’t unusual. Many seniors feel especially lonesome during the holidays. Memories of a spouse long past, drift back. Their own immortality glares them in the face. The inability to make their home the bustling source of activity it once was hits hard.
Holidays can still bring joy into your aging parent’s life, it simply requires a little extra effort.
Don’t overdo decorations. For seniors still living in their private residents, don’t overdo. It’s easy to zip in, bring down all the normal decorations and spice up the house for the holiday. But for the aging parent, it may be too much. Sometimes the best of intentions fall short. Instead of seeing the joy of the holidays, your loved one may worry about funds for gifts they are unable to afford or hosting a dinner for the family they are unable to prepare. Use discretion and decorate gingerly, bringing out things that are simple yet pretty. Ease aging parents into the holiday spirit.
Change the giving process. Give parents permission to skip the purchase of family gifts by turning the tables. “This year we are celebrating you and all you do for us.” Find a family tradition you can expound upon. It’s a long running joke in our family about socks. Everyone gets a special pair of socks from mom. Small bags and boxes are passed out and as everyone opens their socks the family cheers. It’s silly, but fun and something that Mom can continue to do even in her 90’s, that brings laughter and joy. Find a fun family tradition and let go of the expense of gift giving for your aging parent.
Family meals. Rather than your parent being responsible for feeding the troops, make the holiday meals a carry-in. Treat parents by taking the work out of special meals and clean up.
Include parents in individual family events. Don’t forget to invite and bring aging parents to individual family events. Welcome them to Christmas morning in your home or “day after” events. Some families have “leftover days” where their adult children gather to finish off what’s left from large holiday meals. The point is, include your parent. Sometimes the greatest loneliness occurs the day after the holiday.
Small surprises. Surprise loved ones with sudden visits, lunch dates, or little gifts. Revive the joy of the holidays with family. Family is the legacy of aging parents. Make it a focus.
Despite what we do during the holidays, there is always a little sadness when we miss those who’ve passed. Respect those moments. Talk about them. Share fun stories and sweet memories. Loneliness quickly passes to that warmth of sweet memories. Ring in the holidays by setting a joyful atmosphere. It’s never too late to build memories.