The Christmas holidays are fast approaching, and that means gathering the family together for some Christmas cheer. Let’s be frank, however, and face the fact that for many families the Christmas get together can be a difficult and stressful period if ageing parents are becoming noticeably lonely or not coping well with living independently. So let’s ensure that our precious time with our parents is spent with a positive and proactive attitude these Christmas holidays so our visit is one of joy for all.
I recently came across an article on a seniors living blog that suggested a CHEER plan for approaching spending time over the holidays with ageing parents in a caring and loving manner. CHEER stands for:
And here’s how it works:
1. Check their health and safety
Things we fail to notice when we see someone on a daily basis may become glaringly obvious if we haven’t visited for a while. When visiting your parent or parents in their home, discreetly check out the contents of their refrigerator and cupboards to make sure their diet is healthy and adequate.
Check over the home for safety measures that may be needed such as a smoke alarm or support railings in bathrooms and on stairs.
Observe your loved one’s general health and take note of any health issues such as difficulty chewing and swallowing and decreased mobility. Does their mental clarity seem sharp or appear to be deteriorating? Does their eyesight seem to be deteriorating?
2. Help them stay engaged
Older people, especially those living alone, can be lonely and suffer depression if they receive little emotional support. Include elderly relatives and family friends in your celebrations this year, offering transport if needed. Ensure elderly guests are comfortable and encouraged to relax rather than feel they should assist with the preparations. Take time to speak with them individually and listen attentively to their stories and memories. Children will be fascinated by their elders’ tales of the ‘olden days’.
3. Empower a loved one to continue living independently
Most elderly people prefer to stay at home. In-home care services can help them achieve their goal. If our older parents wish to continue living independently, we need to ensure they have the knowledge, support and tools needed to do so even when we are not there. Follow this link for a home safety checklist to follow to ensure they are safe in their home.
If you feel they need assistance, look into local services such as Meals on Wheels and in-home support services that assist with personal care and domestic assistance i.e. housekeeping and shopping. Then encourage your parents to avail themselves of these services – they may resist initially but keep gently trying to persuade them they deserve these support services after a lifetime of contribution to society.
4. Enjoy the precious time you spend together
Ensure there are relaxed times you can focus on making the most of your time together. Encouraging group activities can get all generations of the family active and engaged, from a game of backyard cricket, to an evening stroll or a visit to your local carols in the park event.
5. Reminisce about old times together
Encouraging conversation about times past and the sharing of favourite family stories can bring everyone together and lead to much hilarity and enjoyment. Elders with advanced memory loss often retain surprisingly sharp retention of long-term memories and will be able to chime in with some often extraordinary and riveting recollections from their youth. Pulling out the family photo albums, family videos and favourite CDs can help to bring the past to life and allow elderly family members and friends to feel fully involved and appreciated.
So share the love and cheer this Christmas, as all here at Lifestyle Transition Services wish you a happy and relaxed holiday season and prosperous New Year.