The transition to long term care can be a challenging one, and the holidays can be especially tough. Mom or dad may already be struggling with losing independence and connection to family and old friends. Add in the emotional weight of Christmas away from home, and it can be a recipe for frustration and resentment. Fortunately, there are strategies for making the transition easier and using the holidays to help your loved one embrace their new environment. It just takes a little flexibility and a willingness on your part to let go of old patterns and expectations. Here are some tips for helping mom or dad have a happy holiday in long term care–and for staying sane for family members.
- Presence matters. Spending time with your loved one is the most important step you can take to make things easier this holiday season. Don’t attach too much significance to dates on the calendar as those tend to mean less and less as we age. Instead, take advantage of opportunities to connect whenever they present themselves throughout the Christmas season and the new year.
- Engage the next generation. Make sure to bring grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see loved ones in long term care. Their presence can often diffuse tension and bring joy to any occasion. Encourage young people to connect with elderly relatives screen-free and share meaningful stories and memories.
- Create new traditions. Adult children should let go of the need to keep old patterns alive when mom or dad’s living situation changes. Instead, use change as a catalyst for creating new memories and traditions that can be woven into the long term care setting. Get creative and be flexible.
- Focus on new friendships and connections. Use the holiday as an opportunity to celebrate new relationships. Make small cards or gifts for fellow residents or staff members. Encourage mom or dad to talk with new friends about their own holiday traditions and share stories. Talk with staff about how you can use the upcoming holiday to help integrate mom or dad into their new community.
- Celebrate memories. While you embrace new connections in your loved one’s new home, it’s also important to acknowledge memories of home and holidays past. This can be incredibly comforting to seniors in long term care. Bring in photo albums and share stories. Find ways to keep a special tradition or two alive: gather together to sing favorite songs, bring in favorite foods and have a family meal at mom or dad’s new home.
- Talk about gratitude. Let your loved one know that you’re grateful to experience another Christmas with them, even if things aren’t exactly the way they’ve been in the past. Express your appreciation to staff members who are working on holidays and encourage your loved one to acknowledge and celebrate the positives of their new setting and the care they’re receiving.
- Get festive. Think about touches that will make your loved one smile, whether it’s a small Christmas tree, a display of cards and photos from family and friends or favorite holiday tunes in their room.
- Shift your perspective. With a loved one in long term care, the focus for Christmas moves from the idea of a picture-perfect holiday (the perfect present, the perfect party, the perfect decorations). Instead, it moves to meaningful connections and precious moments as we consider the gift of our loved one’s time with us.
At Evergreen Health & Rehab, we work hard to foster new connections for our long term care residents with social events and activities throughout the year. During the end-of-year holidays, we put extra focus on creating those connections while at the same time welcoming and embracing residents’ family members. In addition to our special holiday events, we invite family members to celebrate with loved ones in our cozy family rooms and bring Christmas to mom or dad. We appreciate hearing from you about what will make the holidays more joyful for your loved one, and we’re happy to share our thoughts and strategies with you during times of transition. We do our best to make things festive and fun, comfortable and caring and invite you to celebrate with us.