The first year in an assisted living facility can be difficult, especially during the holiday season. Holidays are special times highlighted by traditions shared among friends and family. While the sentiment and love are still there, the activities and schedules may have to change with the new living arrangement.
The first holiday without mom or dad at home is especially challenging. This is the year you will have to figure out how to celebrate. What can you do to keep your loved one involved without risking their health or safety? Should you feel guilty for excluding them from some events or for having to forgo or alter past traditions? How can you balance your parent’s wellbeing with making them feel included in the festivities?
The first thing you should know is that you are not alone in this. Many others have had to do the same thing before you. You have the knowledge of others’ experiences as well as the support of your fellow family members who love your aging parent and want the best for them during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to do research, ask questions, and request support.
Is It Ok to Talk About Holiday Activities with My Senior Parent?
Mom and dad are usually the ones who plan activities when we are young. One or both often take an active role in planning festivities for the family. Now that they require assisted living care, they are most likely unable to continue filling that role.
Even though they cannot handle all the things they used to, that doesn’t mean they should be excluded from planning. Not talking about the holidays can negatively impact their mental health and outlook.
Sit down with mom or dad and talk about what he or she would like to do this year. Let them be involved, so they feel included and can participate in decision making. Not only will this give them something positive to focus on, but it also reminds them that they are still a part of the family even if they no longer live at home. They may even have suggestions to help bring some of the old traditions everyone loved to this year’s event.
When having this discussion, you must be flexible and accept that things will never be exactly as they once were. Doing so will lower stress and allow you and your aging parent to move forward and remain positive. It’s also a great time to introduce new traditions that fit better with your parent’s living situation.
Is It Safe to Bring My Senior Parent Home for the Holidays?
Unfortunately, there is no go-to answer for this question. You will have to consider the needs of your parent to determine if you can safely take them out of their assisted living community.
Much will depend on their health status. If your parent is mobile and doesn’t have any health or cognitive problems that could cause a risk, then you may be able to bring them home. Before doing so, you should make sure everything is planned. Have family members available to help monitor or care for your loved one during times when you may not be available.
You must have a place for them to rest and sleep if they will be staying the night. Also remember to consider tripping risks, like objects, rugs, pets, and small children. Can you create a safe place for your loved one to be comfortable and access all the things they need? It can also help to have a discussion with your parent’s medical care providers to determine if this is the best course of action.
If your parent has mobility issues or a condition that requires medical attention, then they may need to remain at the care facility. It’s a tough decision to make, but your loved one’s health and safety should be a top priority.
What Can I Do If I Cannot Safely Bring My Parent Home?
Even if your parent is not coming home, you can still do things to make them feel included. There are ways to bring the holiday celebration to them.
- Decorate Their Living Space – Bring festive decorations and dress up mom or dad’s room or apartment. The change of scenery can make them feel excited and happy. Depending on how much room they have, you could even put up a Christmas tree and decorate it together, just like you used to do.
- Send Holiday Cards – Many people love receiving festive holiday cards. Send one before the holidays to remind mom or dad that you are thinking about them. You could even get the whole family involved and have everyone send a card with a sweet note. Your loved one can read the messages and display the cards as a reminder that they are on your mind.
- Play Their Favorite Holiday Music – Does mom or dad have a favorite holiday tune they love? Bring a device and play it for them. Even if they do not have a smartphone, you can find an inexpensive MP3 player or similar device and load it with a playlist curated just for your loved one.
- Plan an On-Site Family Gathering – Plan to bring the whole family to mom or dad’s assisted living community for an on-site gathering. You can make it even more exciting by unwrapping gifts or bringing some tasty treats to share.
- Organize a Celebration with Everyone – You could also plan a celebration with the family, your loved one, and their neighbors! Invite other seniors living in the facility to join you for a holiday celebration. Not only is this good for them, but it also creates opportunities for mom or dad to socialize and make new friends.
My Parent Has Dementia, Should I Still Try to Include Them?
Dementia presents many challenges, especially when it comes to holiday celebrations. In some cases, it may seem like mom or dad won’t really know the difference if you include them or not. They may not be engaged with the world and those in it.
Even if you aren’t sure if it will be appreciated, you should still try to do something with your loved one during the holiday. They may not understand what you’re doing or why, but they will enjoy quality time with the people they love.
It’s important to note that you should include your parent on a case by case basis. Some dementia patients do not respond positively to certain stimuli. New noises, more people, or a change in their routine could cause agitation. If this is the case, then it may be best to avoid the activities listed above. You can plan a quiet one-on-one visit, so you are still spending time together.
Holiday planning with senior parents isn’t always easy. There are times when you or your loved ones may feel sad to see how things have changed. However, there are ways to create new memories and traditions that can brighten this year and the next for everyone. If you have questions about bringing mom or dad home for the holidays, let us know. Our staff can help guide you in the right direction, so you can decide what is best during your loved one’s first year in an assisted living community.