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For many, the holidays are filled with celebrations and festivities with family and friends, but it can be a worrisome time for those who have difficulty getting around, or are confined to their homes. Older adults might choose to forego family celebrations and festivities for fear of falling or being a burden on family members. By skipping family functions, older adults may have an increased feeling of loneliness and isolation during the holidays.

Unfortunately a day out with an older adult cannot be spontaneous. However, with a little pre-planning and modifications, holiday traditions and activities can be safe for older family members. This may require some changes to family plans, but having senior family members with you during the holidays is well worth the adjustments.

In order to make celebrations suitable for every family member, here are some things to consider during the planning process:

  • How far can the person travel?
  • Are the costs affordable to someone on a limited budget?
  • How much walking is involved?  Are there hills or other obstacles that would make it hard to navigate?
  • Is there wheelchair access?
  • Is there parking nearby?
  • Are restrooms easily accessible?
  • Are there benches or chairs that can be used?

Planning what you need to take with you is also important. Be prepared for the unexpected. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you have all the medications needed. Take an extended supply, just in case you are still out when the next dose is due.
  • Have clothing appropriate for the weather and the outing. Comfortable shoes and warm weather clothes are important.
  • Bring some snacks and plenty of water.

Once you get to the activity, the next step is to be alert to any hazards or problems that might occur. Holidays are a joyful time of year meant for get-togethers, memories, and a touch of nostalgia. However, the holiday season can be one of the most dangerous times for older persons. For example:

  • Holiday decorations may affect the ability of your loved ones to move freely throughout the home. Just because you can easily navigate the extra decorations, doesn’t mean that your loved one will.
  • Look for extension cords or floor rugs that can lead to a fall.
  • Make sure that walkways are clear of ice and snow.

Additional considerations are needed for family members living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, consider the effect of too much clutter: Too many lights, music and decorations can be overwhelming. The Alzheimer’s Organization provides additional tips on how to help family members with dementia enjoy the holidays. In addition, the Healthy Aging Network Telecast on Managing Family Members with Dementia Over the Holiday Season provides additional tips to help you and your family.

The holidays give older adults something to look forward to, provides a stimulating change of scenery, and create pleasant memories to carry with them. So, even though it may take a little extra planning and work, involving your older family members in holiday celebrations can improve the meaning of the holiday season.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Pickaway County

Sources:

Reducing Loneliness: How to Help Seniors During the Holidays, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/alzheimers/art-20047715

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