Since Christmas is often the only time of the year that families all get together, making sure that the elderly relatives are included takes on added importance.
Although seniors want to participate in these family gatherings, their energy levels may not allow that.
Many seniors tire out after a couple of hours, even if they are sitting down.
They love to be with children but the noise and energy of children can be overwhelming.
Plan to have your elderly loved ones with you for two or three hours, then start to think about taking them back home.
If seniors get overly tired, they may suffer for it the next day.
Don’t plan for them to attend a multitude of activities or visits over the holidays. Think about which events they would enjoy attending the most.
Just the thought of several outings can be overwhelming and tiring to the point where an elderly person loses interest in doing anything.
Even the idea of family conversations can be stressful for seniors who are hard of hearing.
If there is background noise, then they might not be aware that anyone is speaking to them or be unable to participate like they might want to in the conversations.
All of this can be very distressing for individuals.
Perhaps the senior is having problems holding onto and processing a thought.
By the time they understand what the discussion is about, the conversation has moved on to other topics. Give seniors time to think about what was said and then to reply.
Seniors who repeat the same story every few minutes or ask the same question over and over should still be included in family events.
Possibly a couple of family members could be informed as to what is happening and ask them to sit with the senior.
This responsibility should be shared as it can be upsetting to be truly present with seniors who have dementia.
It is helpful to be more visual with seniors who are having problems with understanding what is happening.
Instead of asking if they want to sit beside Mary or Joe for supper, draw a seating chart of where everyone is sitting and show them where Mary and Joe are sitting.
It will be easier for a senior to understand the question and give an answer and not as exasperating for you.
The same goes for other things such as asking if they want pie or ice cream for dessert. Show them both the pie and ice cream and then ask them which one they would like.
And when preparing a senior’s dinner plate, dish up a reasonable amount of food for that individual.
If too much food is served, for some seniors just looking at the quantity of food could turn them off from eating anything.
While including your elderly loved ones in Christmas family activities is important, just be sure they aren’t getting overwhelmed.
Sharen Marteny is a services consultant for seniors in Kelowna.