The holiday season can be a difficult time of year for seniors who can’t be with family due to a variety of issues or if they struggle to participate in holiday traditions they once practiced in the past. If you have a senior loved one in your life that has these struggles, you may feel overwhelmed with uncertainty of how to care for and include them. We want you to be able to enjoy this wonderful time of year with your loved ones, so we spoke to some local professionals about what you and your loved one can do to keep spirits bright. This is also a good time of year to prepare your senior loved ones for the winter, so keep reading to learn how you can keep them safe during the change in season.
Home for the Holidays
When visiting loved ones for the holidays, you may see a change in their wellness, which can be overwhelming if you are unsure of what steps to take to keep them protected. We spoke to Collette Mieres, executive director of assisted living at Ovation Heartwood Preserve (ovationbyavamere.com/omaha-nebraska), about this possibility and what to do next if changes are necessary.
“Some may be seeing a decline in their loved one’s health or cognition this season,” said Collette. “This can lead to questions about whether their loved one can safely stay in their home. Thinking about these questions can be stressful if the family is not prepared. At Ovation Heartwood Preserve, we are a resource for families at any stage of their planning.”
Ovation offers independent and assisted living, as well as memory care support. Their on-site staff is ready to provide for your loved one’s every need; from regular housekeeping to keeping track of daily medications, their licensed team members are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to offer a level of support individual to each resident.
“We encourage families and seniors to be open and vulnerable as they consider options for the future,” advised Collette. “We provide the tools that families require for loved ones as they age. Person centered care is provided by qualified and trained team members in our Assisted Living and Memory Care Community. In Independent Living, resort style and beautiful amenities are some of the features that one can expect at Ovation Heartwood Preserve. Call our showroom to schedule a tour and learn more information today!”
Ashley Gloystein-Klatt, national director of marketing for Agemark Senior Living, parent company of CountryHouse Residence for Memory Care (countryhouse.net), also touched on this subject and explained to us some things to pay close attention to when spending time with our loved ones this holiday.
“Watch for changes in their home environment,” advised Ashley. “Look for anything unusual in their home. Is their once-immaculate home dirtier or messier than usual? Do you notice piles of unopened mail or unpaid bills? Check to see if the heat, power, water, and major appliances are in good working condition. Check thermostats and furnace filters. If you see indicators that their home isn’t being properly managed, you may need to act. Such signs can even be early indicators of physical or cognitive challenges that mean they’re no longer in the best environment.”
Sometimes the problem is that they’re lonely or simply unhappy in their environment. If your loved one recently lost their spouse or friends, or their support system is dwindling, the issue may be that their social needs aren’t being met. As humans, most of us crave connection with others. Relationships increase our confidence and self-esteem. If you have noticed any of these warning signs and are worried that it is no longer safe or feasible for your loved one to live on their own, it’s time to take action. CountryHouse is devoted exclusively to assisting those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Their communities focus on residents engaging together and sharing experiences with each other and their families.
“One of our Senior Living Consultants would love to learn more about you and your loved one,” shared Ashley, “and using the information you provide, they can either point you in the direction of helpful resources or determine whether assisted living is something you should explore as an option for your loved one.”
Managing Holiday Stress
If you are the caregiver of an elderly loved one, the holidays may be especially stressful on you as you try to prepare for the festivities and visits from family while also caring for someone. This is where Key Home Care (keyhomecare.us) can step in and lend you a helping hand. We spoke to Owner Sandra Miller about why her business is a great number to call if you find yourself overwhelmed during the holidays.
“We can take stress off your shoulders this time of year by doing the cooking, cleaning, and laundry so that when family is here, you can visit rather than work,” said Sandra. “Family caregivers often ignore their own health because of the time they are devoting to their loved one that needs assistance.”
Key Home Care strives to be a bright spot in a senior’s day when they visit, and while they cannot take the place of family, they always try to bring holiday cheer to their home. Their caregivers will help your loved one send out Christmas cards, decorate the home, and bake special holiday recipes.
“We encourage them to share stories of past holidays with us,” Sandra said. “When seniors share their stories, not only is it fun for them, but I guarantee we learn something new every time. They have such a wealth of information and memories, and we are honored to work with them and learn from them.”
Sandra said that Key Home Care sees an increase in need during the winter months because seniors are not able to get out as much and often friends and families have a more difficult time making visits to the seniors in their lives. It is reassuring to know your loved one has a caregiver to offer in-home care that will help with shopping, meal prep, and companionship during the cold and snowy winter months. Plus, getting a routine established before the weather sets in is advantageous for everyone!
Alyssa Jelinek, community relationship manager at Right at Home (rightathome.net/omaha-metro), a home care agency, shared with us some of the ways that their caregivers can help you and your aging loved one feel comfortable and at ease this holiday season.
“Our caregivers can help your loved one with their everyday activities, and during the holiday season, this can include shopping, baking cookies and other treats, putting up holiday decorations, and more,” she explained. “We also offer companionship and can take your loved one to look at holiday lights or attend special church services, listen to holiday music, or watch a classic holiday movie together.”
Alyssa also explained how important it is to keep in touch with your elderly loved ones over the holidays when they are unable to be with the family in-person.
“Loneliness and social isolation is a big challenge seniors face when they are away from their families, so if you have a senior loved one you are unable to visit face-to-face this holiday season, consider getting them a tablet or other smart device that they can video call family and friends with,” suggested Alyssa. “This is a great gift that the whole family can go in on, and is helpful beyond the holidays when weather or other obstacles may prevent families from gathering together. You could also see if they have neighbors or friends in town that you could set up a visit with so they have company through the holidays.”
Keeping Traditions Alive
If you are looking for a senior care facility for your loved one, make sure you pick a community that brings out all of the holiday traditions to keep senior spirits bright through the season. At Prairie Meadows Alzheimer’s Care Center (frontiermgmt.com/communities/prairie-meadows-alzheimers-special-care-center), the staff boosts holiday spirits by throwing holiday parties, including a Christmas tree decorating party, a cookie cutting and decorating party, and caroling with the residents. Don Woods, marketing director, said that residents especially love hearing from their families when they can’t be together through video calls and cards that reminisce on past memories.
“It’s a good idea to schedule video call visits ahead of time to be sure that the whole family is available to talk,” said Don. “Seniors love to reminisce, and the holidays are a great time to share past memories of holidays celebrated together or family traditions.”
Don also suggested reaching out to your elderly loved ones and asking them if they need any help with their holiday shopping as a way to share time with them.
“Shop as early as you can with your senior loved one and take advantage of the nicer days before winter really sets in,”
recommended Don. “Seniors have been thinking of the holidays for quite some time now, so if you have an older loved one in your life that may need help with shopping, taking them out to the stores is a great way to spend quality time with them and help them feel prepared for the busyness that comes with this time of year.”
Midwest Geriatrics, Inc. (omahaseniorcare.org) finds distance to be the most difficult challenge for their residents over the holidays. Jen Smith, director of life enrichment, said that they tackle this challenge by planning ahead with holiday tasks to ensure loved ones stay connected with family when they can’t be together.
“We plan holiday mailing activities with our residents so that they are aware of a specific timeline and can add personal notes to cards when they address and mail them,” Jen explained. “Planning holiday tasks helps residents look forward to activities, creates responsibility, and empowers them by involving them in holiday traditions. These connections are so important for residents to enjoy themselves and have purpose.”
Jen also told us that there are many seniors with a gift list sponsored on various churches and community groups’ Angel Trees. This is a great way for anyone to become involved and celebrate the season with the seniors in the community.
“We all know it isn’t about the gift,” said Jen. “It’s about the time spent together. Our seniors are here for only a short time longer, and spending time in conversation, celebration, and honoring our loved ones is the best way to enjoy the holiday spirit.”
This holiday season, when gathering with your elderly loved ones, consider talking with them about plans for the future and ensure that they are prepared for the coming year.
“Holiday family gatherings will hopefully be bigger this year now that COVID-related restrictions have been relaxed,” said Anne Burnett, a partner at Burnett Wilson Law (burnettwilsonlaw.com). “This means that some of us will be spending more time with our elder loved ones than we have for a long time. While this is a time of celebration, it is also a time to ponder the future and think about the care needs of the seniors in your family.”
Burnett Wilson finds that after the bustle of the holidays, many clients want to get the New Year off to a good start. This includes making sure that all the necessary legal documents are in place, and the Elder Law attorneys at Burnett Wilson have deep experience helping families ensure that this is the case.
“Sometimes our clients are surprised at all the ways that we can help,” Anne said. “Part of our job is to help families understand what services are available and where they can go to get them.”
The Elder Law attorneys at Burnett Wilson have strong relationships with all kinds of service providers in the area, making them a reliable choice when looking for senior resources.
“We do our best to make sure our clients have the knowledge and support they need,” Anne emphasized. “We want to help them feel comfortable about what lies ahead in the New Year and beyond.”
Kyle Johnson with CCA Home Care (ccahomecare.com) had much to say on the importance of addressing all aspects of physical health for seniors as early as possible, especially leading into the winter months.
“Declining eyesight or hearing, mobility problems, and memory issues can lead to losing the ability to drive, an increased risk of falling, and everyday tasks becoming more difficult to perform,” he said. “These health concerns are even more important to take into consideration during the winter. Making sure seniors have mental stimulation, companionship, transportation for outings, and assistance with personal care or household chores can help keep these issues under control.”
CCA refers caregivers who are CNAs and can assist seniors with companionship, personal care, light housekeeping, and much more. They have caregivers available to help starting at one hour or up to 24 hours a day, along with access to short-term assistance in the case of an emergency. This flexibility gives families the peace of mind knowing their loved one is being cared for by a qualified and caring individual.
Whether you need helpful products to assist you in daily activities, or you just underwent a major surgery and are now in rehabilitation, See The Trainer (seethetrainer.com) can help you out. Their products include canes, sock aids, bathroom accessories, and more. See The Trainer also has a variety of items that can assist someone going through rehabilitation after a major surgery or injury so that they can safely get back to their normal routine as soon as possible.
We recommend utilizing some of the suggestions from these local experts to keep your loved ones safe, warm, and full of holiday spirit during this season!