When you have family members in a senior or assisted living community, enjoying the holidays can be very different from just spending time at home relaxing together. These facilities not only create an extra-welcoming atmosphere during this season, but often offer additional on-site events and activities in which everyone can participate. Whether you choose high-action or low-key, the secret is to be proactive and positive about the experience.
Here are some tips for helping everyone have an enjoyable time during the holidays—and avoiding the stress of the season.
• Be Thankful
Focus on the opportunity to interact with your aging relatives while you still have the chance. Regardless of your relationship, now is the time to appreciate and celebrate their life in another holiday season, not to dwell on past differences.
• Be Present
This is one of the most important times to be simply in the moment. Keep everyone centered on the day and the chance to have a wonderful holiday experience together, whether it’s for just a half-hour or over several longer visits. In other words, now is not the time to bring up past issues, difficulties or differences. Just enjoy the time you have with your loved ones.
• Be Engaged
Enter the room with a positive attitude and keep your focus on bringing out others around you. Seniors love to talk about their lives and experiences, so ask questions and actively listen. We all can learn something from those who are older and wiser. Empower them by being actively curious and appreciative.
• Be Diplomatic
Should criticism, regret, or other negative emotions appear on the scene, tactfully listen and respond, or gently alter the topic. Remind those around you to hover only on the enjoyable aspects of the short time you have together. Another option is to simply let that person air their thoughts without responding or engaging. Finally, you can always remove yourself from the situation and return at a calmer time.
• Be Watchful
While you’re at the facility make sure to cross-check important lifestyle issues, such as health changes, diet, treatment of your loved one, physical hazards and security. It’s a good time to schedule a quick conversation with staff to make sure your family member is doing well and to plan how you can help with anything that’s come up since your last visit.
• BONUS: Be a Memory-Maker
Don’t just create a positive holiday experience with your seniors—record the memories. Whether through photos, video, audio stories or otherwise, document this piece of family history. And share it with other family and friends through social media!
HOLLY SMITH PETERSON