Holidays can be both a joyful and a stressful time for everyone, no matter what stage of life we’re in. But as a family member ages, it can become more and more difficult to continue the family traditions everyone expects, and at the same time juggle our elderly loved one’s mental, physical, and emotional needs. Caregivers often struggle with how to plan meals and family gatherings that won’t be highly stressful, confusing, or even depressing for an elderly family member, but at the same time will meet the hopes and expectations of others. If you have aging parents, here are a few tips for making the most of holiday family time.

Make The Most of Holiday Family Time with Aging Parents

Older adults with mobility issues or conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can feel isolated when everyone is getting together for holiday activities, celebrations, and family visits. The holidays can disrupt familiar routines and often require difficult travel, which can sometimes make an aging individual loved one like a burden.

Individuals experiencing dementia can often feel overstimulated and confused in large groups. Often, they’re more comfortable in their familiar environment and routines.

How can you make aging parents more comfortable during family holiday time?

First, try to understand where your loved one may be coming from. Remember that whatever they’re experiencing is valid, and not personal to you.

If you’re noticing unexpected resistance from your mom or dad about joining in on holiday festivities, take a moment to empathize and see if you can find a solution that will work for everyone.

Consider how you may be able to offer support:

Try to meet them where they are by considering some alternative approaches, whether your loved one lives in an assisted living home or in their own home:

  • If your loved one experiences dementia, consider only bringing one or two grandchildren to visit at a time to create a calmer environment during a special visit.
  • If your loved one doesn’t have dementia or is open to leaving their familiar space, ask if you can pick them up and bring them over to a small family gathering.

Whatever your elderly parents are experiencing this time of year, our best tip is to be gentle, understanding, and direct where possible. Allow your aging loved one to feel like they’re a vital part of the holiday season, while still being sensitive to their evolving needs. Ask them what’s important to them during the holiday season.

10 Tips for Enjoying the Holidays with Seniors

1. Simplify your holiday season.

Caregivers with younger families of their own have a lot on their plates during the holidays. Over-the-top expectations and an “I want to do it all” attitude can bring on a lot of stress.

Simplify routines and modify traditions to reduce stress by making a list of all of your chores and then eliminating those that are unnecessary.

2. Plan ahead.

If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of holiday visits. The noise and confusion of a large family gathering can lead to irritability, confusion, or exhaustion. Consider designating a “quiet room” and schedule time for a nap, if necessary.

3. Modify festivities to accommodate individual limitations.

Figure out how to continue traditions in slightly modified ways that include your aging loved ones, but also take into account their limitations. Be conscious of potential difficulties with meals and other activities for someone with mental, physical, or dietary limitations.

4. Ask your loved one about their memories.

Older people whose memory is impaired may have difficulty remembering recent events. However, they are often able to share stories and observations from the past. Use picture albums, family videos, and music to help stimulate memories and encourage seniors to share the holiday stories and experiences they remember.

5. Create new memories.

In addition to familiar holiday traditions, consider adding something new to this year’s holiday celebration that will be easier for your loved one to participate in. Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, window-shopping at the mall, or attending an event with familiar holiday music.

6. Plan how to pass along holiday traditions.

Use the time together for new ways of storytelling and recording family traditions. Step back from simply celebrating the holidays, and think of new ways to preserve the stories and memories that your aging parents hold dear. Talk about things you used to enjoy doing when you were a child.

7. Find ways to celebrate long-distance holidays with seniors.

COVID-19 or other circumstances may prevent you from being with your aging parents for the holidays. Hold a “virtual get-together” using Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or other phone or computer apps. Give everyone a chance to talk or even sing together.

8. Acknowledge and plan for feelings of grief.

Your parents might have new stories about long-time friends that have died. You may also have feelings of sadness because your parents are aging and things are slowing down. If this is the first holiday after one of your parents or a spouse has died, grief will be very real for everyone.

Get a sense of where everyone is emotionally, and what they fear, dread or look forward to about the holidays. Don’t expect immediate agreement about what should be done. Grieving is personal and takes different forms for everyone.

9. Avoid embarrassing moments.

Try to avoid making comments that could embarrass an older family member who may be experiencing short-term memory or other problems related to dementia. For example, if your elderly loved one forgets a recent conversation or event, don’t make it worse by saying, “Don’t you remember?” Instead, repeat what was said and carry on.

10. Monitor diet, medications, and alcohol.

Help seniors adhere to their regular schedule of eating and medications during the chaos of the holidays. Make sure there is something that a diabetic or someone with gluten intolerance can eat.

Also, pay attention to their alcohol consumption during parties and family gatherings. Alcohol can illicit inappropriate behavior, affect balance and mobility, or interfere with medications.

Observing and Assisting Aging Parents

During the holidays, many people will be visiting aging parents or relatives. That makes it a perfect opportunity to observe them in their “natural habitat” – you’ll get to see how they’re really doing.

This year, use some of your time at home to do three things:

  1. Make sure your older adults are doing well
  2. Make simple home safety updates
  3. Start important conversations about the future

Discreetly check on independent seniors

If your parents or relatives are living independently, the holidays are a great time to discreetly check in on them. By doing this every year and keeping notes, you’ll be able to spot changes more easily in the future.

Spend an afternoon on home safety updates

While you’re visiting, you might have an opportunity to make a few simple in-home safety updates. These easy fixes don’t take much time and will help older adults avoid common accidents so they can stay independent and live in the comfort of their own homes longer.

Start meaningful conversations about the future

When the family gets together over the holidays, it’s a good opportunity for meaningful conversations. If you haven’t already started talking about aging and plans for the future, consider bringing up the subject at a strategic time.

You might be surprised – many parents appreciate having these difficult conversations and will be grateful that you brought it up.

When Seniors Miss Friends and Traditions

“I’m the only one left!” is a quip we often hear from seniors.

While it’s often said with humor, the reality is that there is a hard truth behind the joke. As we age, our circle of friends grows smaller. It’s painful to lose peers as you age, and the holidays highlight this unlike any other time of year.

Seniors may experience loneliness during the winter season, triggered by missing their peers. Loneliness often surfaces most acutely during the holidays because of the loss of treasured traditions with friends who are no longer around.

How can you comfort an aging parent suffering from loneliness?

First, look out for signs of listlessness, withdrawal, or even depression:

  • Have their grooming habits changed?
  • Are they sleeping more than usual?
  • Are they still getting out and walking every day? (Or another activity she usually enjoys.)

Consider how you may be able to offer support:

Perhaps mom has lost a dear friend she used to always go holiday shopping with to mark the season. Though of course you can’t replace that friendship, offering to get your mom out of the house to shop can help both get her mind off missing her friend and spend time with you.

Maybe dad used to play a celebratory golf game with friends who are no longer with us. Is there a grandchild or someone in the family who enjoys the sport and could revive the tradition in a new way?

If your parents used to go to a certain church service together, can the kids and grandkids rally to keep up the annual tradition, even though dad is no longer around?

Bottom line, try to consider your parent’s wishes to make the best of their holiday season while keeping them safe. Try and enjoy the time you share with them. You may not have much time to do so, so make the best of it.

Your aging parents will most likely appreciate your efforts to make the most out of holiday family time.


Our goal is to keep you or your loved one healthy, happy, and safe at home. The Promedcare team of management and caregivers understands the importance of providing care within the comfort of one’s own home. Families choose Promedcare for different reasons. For some, it’s to provide extensive ongoing care for an aging senior. For others, we offer a much-needed break or, respite care – such as a night out with a spouse, vacation, or simply a few hours of quiet time at home – for family members who provide regular care. We offer a wide range of care services customized for each individual client.

Promedcare services include Personal Care Services, Companion Care Services, Dementia / Alzheimer’s Care Services, and Respiratory Solutions.

Contact us today to see how Prodmedcare can help you!