Maximizing Your Quality Time This Holiday Season
I was at an event last week when the conversation turned to the holiday season and working in senior care. We started discussing how it rewarding it can be to spend time with patients, residents, and their family members on holidays.
We also talked about how difficult it can sometimes be for our own families when we’re not spending the whole day with them. It’s a very delicate balance that you constantly struggle to maintain.
Similarly to spending time with your own family during the holidays, at the assisted living community I worked at, we were always talking with family members about how to maximize the time with their loved ones and how to best engage with them. See, the holidays can be tough when a mother or father is living with dementia. It’s a time of both great sadness and joy at the same time. We viewed our role to be the guides that walked each family through the Do’s and Don’ts of the season. If you have a loved one in an assisted living, residential care home, skilled nursing facility, or another senior care setting, consider the following to make your time around the holidays meaningful to both you and your loved one.
Reminisce – Holidays are a great time to talk about the past – the traditions, the fun, and the stories that were told every year. For individuals who have dementia, it’s sometimes best to discuss the past because they have a greater chance of remembering it. When you’re a family member in that situation, it’s completely normal to grieve the loss of the recent past, but by talking about events in the further past, you can make your time with them in the present meaningful, too.
Attend the Party, if it’s recommended – most assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities hold a holiday party. When these communities throw a party, they go all out. There’s usually a huge meal prepared for the residents and their families, bands, carolers, tons of decorations, and really excited staff! When we hosted our holiday party, we created areas where families could gather in more private settings if their loved one didn’t do well in large crowds. We also had family style dining where multiple families could gather and get to know one another. You can see what some communities are doing by checking out this article.
Gifts are great regardless of age and cognitive capacity – Everybody loves a gift. That doesn’t stop if you live in a senior living community or if you have dementia. The trick for family members is to find the most appropriate gift for their loved one. When picking out a gift, you might want to check with the staff to see if there is something that your loved one enjoys in the community. If your loved one has been diagnosed with a form of dementia, you can select their gift based on how progressed their disease is.
The most important thing to do around this time of year is to take it all in stride. Nothing is going to be perfect, and it’s probably safe to say that it wasn’t perfect when there wasn’t someone living in a senior living community. As family members, all you can do is your best, and realize that much of what happens is outside of both your control and your loved one’s control.