Including Your Senior Parents in Holiday Preparations

By Marcy Shoemaker, Ph.D., staff psychologist

Holidays are a stressful time for many families. If you are part of a family who is transitioning into the role of caretaker for an elderly loved one, it can be especially difficult as you figure out how to incorporate the senior family member into holiday planning. For many years, holiday events may have been organized and located at your loved one’s home and it may be hard for them to let go of this tradition. When broaching the subject of changing venues, be direct and honest and explain your concerns. Changes may need to be gradual if your loved one cherishes their role as holiday planner. Possibly, your parent can help to coordinate the event if it is moved to another family member’s home or act as host to one aspect of the holiday celebrations. Communication and consideration of the senior family member’s feelings are essential in all decisions. You may also find that holiday changes are stressful for you and other family members since long-held cherished traditions are changing

To help everybody make the transition, some hints include:

  1. Start communication and discussions about holiday changes with senior parents or loved ones early. Don’t treat your loved one like a child or surprise them with a last minute change.

  2. Incorporate the senior family member in planning and jointly assign responsibilities for example, have them help with food preparation or decorating. If senior member can’t cook or decorate alone have them assist with preparations.

  3. Continue to incorporate long held family traditions into celebrations.

  4. Don’t ignore senior members or exclude them in holiday celebrations.

  5. If your loved one lives at an assisted living or long term care facility, consider holding a celebration there to ease travel difficulties.

Try to make the celebration a positive time for all family members even though stress and emotions may exist during the holiday season. Maintain open communication and involve everybody as much as possible. The most important thing to remember is to cherish the time with your parents and loved ones. Have a happy and healthy holiday season!