Managing the Holidays With Aging Parents
Last Updated: November 14, 2019
When we visit our aging parents and relatives over the holidays, we are likely to learn more about their daily habits. If they are experiencing difficult life changes or are having trouble living independently, the holidays can quickly become a difficult and stressful time.
This time of the year tends to evoke memories of one’s youth and the people who made those moments special. However, this can be difficult for seniors who are grieving for their loved ones who passed away. Also, not being able to meet with family members due to difficulties with health or traveling can cause older adults to feel even more isolated.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage holiday depression in the elderly. By proactively observing your loved one’s mental health and maintaining a positive attitude, you can help make the holidays a joyous season for all.
Learn more about A Place for Mom’s “CHEER Plan,” which is used by our Senior Living Advisors to help families manage the holidays with aging parents.
Indicators of Holiday Depression
Feelings of loneliness and nostalgia can often accompany the holidays. However, depression in older people requires treatment, as it can greatly affect an individual’s daily life. To best help your senior loved ones enjoy the holidays, it is important to understand the warning signs of depression.
Seniors experiencing seasonal depression will often show decreased interest in their favorite activities, difficulty concentrating, and may even have troubling thoughts of death or suicide. Depression can also cause changes in appetite and sleep, which can cause fluctuations in weight. Additionally, the senior might appear visibly fatigued. For some individuals, depression can lead to inactivity or a lack of motivation. Inactivity may lead to inattentiveness to personal care and hygiene. Others might struggle with anxiety and appear restless or fidgety.1
If you notice several of these symptoms present in your loved one, consider if it might be time to discuss the situation with other family members. Take time to help them understand why you feel it may be necessary to seek out professional help.
How To Use the CHEER Plan To Manage Holiday Depression in the Elderly
A Place for Mom’s CHEER Plan stands for:
It is a plan that our Senior Living Advisors use to help you make the most of your time with aging parents and senior loved ones as you visit over the holidays. Use these tips for beating the holiday blues.
The CHEER acronym helps you:
1. CHECK on your parent’s well-being.
Check on your parent’s well-being, especially if you haven’t visited in a while. When we see someone everyday, we may not notice health changes because they happen gradually. On the other hand, it may be obvious that seniors may need help when we visit someone whom we haven’t seen in a while. If you’re visiting your parents in their home, check their pantry and refrigerator to make sure they’re eating fresh, healthy food. Survey the overall safety of their home by assuring that carbon monoxide and smoke alarms have batteries and that the rooms don’t have fall hazards. Even if you don’t visit your senior loved one’s home, you can watch for health issues involving chewing and swallowing, gait and mobility, and mental clarity and vision.
2. HELP your senior loved one stay engaged.
Seniors who live alone can suffer from depression due to their limited mobility and medical illnesses that are heightened in the winter. Inviting older family members and friends to your celebration, and offering transportation is a great way to be inclusive.
Older loved ones may need emotional support during this time. Make sure they are comfortable and offer to lend a hand if they feel overburdened with preparations. If a senior loved one seems lonely, simply taking time to listen can be a great mood lifter. Is your loved one missing family members who have passed away? Or are they missing the way things used to be during the past holidays?
3. EMPOWER your parent 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 parent’s safety, teach him or her skills that help to compensate for deficits. Also, make sure there is a local support system for your senior loved one. Set up resources to help him or her stay safe at home, such as meal delivery services, medical alarms, and mobility services.
4. ENJOY your time together.
After you have ensured that your older loved ones are happy and safe, focus on making the most of the holidays and your time together. A great way to beat feelings of loneliness is to invite family and friends and get everyone involved in the celebration. 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.
5. REMINISCE with parents and senior 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. 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 family photo albums and videos that bring the past to life for your parents and senior loved ones.
If you believe your senior loved one’s health or safety may be at risk, then it may be time to get professional insight from our senior living experts..
We’re sending warm wishes to you and yours for an incredible holiday season and a prosperous New Year!
1Depression in Seniors: Why the Holidays Can Be Hard. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2018-12-10/depression-in-seniors-why-the-holidays-can-be-hard.
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