The holidays can be stressful for family caregivers during an ordinary year. This year, our holidays will look a bit different. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy ourselves and spend meaningful time with our senior loved ones.
It's an awkward feeling, and no one wants to feel like the family police. We understand! Everyone in the family wants to hug Nanna. The sweet little grandchildren and great-grandchildren struggle to understand the new social rules. And your elderly loved one craves physical affection, too. You don't want to seem like the bad guy, preventing others from hugging and kissing Nanna.
The team at Weatherly Inn is here to help you navigate the holidays of this historic year. We'll start with the importance of smaller gatherings and social distancing and give you some new ideas to keep your family traditions going. As always, if you're a caregiver for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's, and you have deeper concerns about your ability to provide care, contact us.
Now, let's talk about family gatherings.
Keep the Guest List Short
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the safest way to celebrate the holidays in 2020 is to celebrate within your household or go virtual. Know that:
- Your household includes everyone that lives and shares common spaces in your home.
- Therefore, "family" includes roommates or people who are unrelated to you if they live in the same space.
- People who live elsewhere, like college students returning home for the holidays, should be considered a different household.
- Larger "multi-household" gatherings are sure to pose more risk to your aging family member and should be avoided.
The silver lining of this strange year is that family members with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia might have a more enjoyable time at a small family gathering. Large bustling crowds, mixed with a touch of alcohol and too much music, have been known to irritate individuals with dementia, aggravate their medical conditions and even lead to wandering — a dangerous situation in these colder months.
Spread Out When You Come Together
We don't want to sound like a broken record, but social distancing is key during these unusual times!
We're sure you've heard about social distancing by now. You've been keeping six feet between yourself and others for months. Your senior loved one, though, might not be so familiar with the routine. It takes more than a few months to un-program an eighty-year-old personality from hugging the grandbabies! We get it!
- One way to establish a safe social distance in a holiday home is to set up the furniture for social distancing before the meal.
- Get Grandma ready in a cozy chair and create a bit of a barrier around her using coffee tables.
- This will help others stay out of her space, especially once they have a few glasses of "holiday cheer."
- Be careful about tripping hazards, though, make sure your older family member can see any barriers, and remember your family member's bifocal glasses might make them hard to see.
Another good idea is to ask your family member with dementia to wear a mask. It can be an excellent visual reminder for other family members to maintain social distance during this historic year. They need to respect your senior's space and health concerns.
Also, it helps to boost the ventilation — so open some windows and doors if you can.
Enjoy Outdoor Events If Possible
While we may not be able to gather in homes and worship centers, we can still enjoy a walk through a winter wonderland (as long as it isn't too icy or cold). If the weather outside is frightful, maybe your family member might prefer a drive through the decorated neighborhoods for a good time.
The Safest Way to See Elderly Family This Year is Virtually
If your senior family member has health concerns beyond Alzheimer's or dementia, it might be best to only meet with them online this year.
We know that's a terrible disappointment for many people. But this year, we need to put our emotions aside and think about our elderly loved ones' health and safety. Thankfully, technology has given us more options than ever to communicate with them!
Apps That Can Help
Here are a few apps you can use to stay connected during the 2020 holiday season:
Once you've mastered these apps, it's easier to involve distant family members — or even those from the household down the road — with holiday traditions.
Keep Traditions Going in 2020!
Do your best to do some of your favorite holiday activities like baking, singing songs and decorating together. Try these ideas to get started:
- Gather your family together remotely using a Facebook Watch Party and watch holiday videos together. You can watch holiday music videos, Christmas cookie recipes, or classic holiday movies this way.
- Many worship services are available online now, too.
- Have a holiday decorating contest with your neighbors. You don't need to be in contact with them to compete! It only takes a few homes to brighten a neighborhood. Everyone will appreciate your efforts.
- Go for a walk around your block and take holiday photos to share with your loved one, if the weather permits it.
This year could be a good time to start new holiday traditions too! Perhaps it's time to experiment with new holiday recipes or invest in a giant, outdoor decoration you can trot out for years to come. It will always remind you of the surreal 2020 holiday season.
Ultimately, we know these are unusual times we're living in, especially for caregivers of seniors with dementia. At Weatherly, we're going to great lengths to create a safe environment for our residents in assisted living, and we have more helpful resources for you. Check out our guide to helping your loved ones stay safe and see if assisted living is right for you today. Then contact us for a virtual tour.