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Helping Elderly Relatives Cope With Holiday Stress

by Lois Earles

The holidays are a magical time. But the festive season can also be very stressful. When we’re in the middle of shopping, wrapping, attending parties and events, and planning our own special days, we are often guilty of thinking that we’re the only ones dealing with stress.

But the holidays can also be very difficult for older people, even if their to-do lists are a little shorter. Your elderly relatives might be struggling with health issues, or worried about money. They might feel lonely or left out, and this time of year can remind them of things that they might have lost. Here are some of the things that you can do to help your elderly relatives cope with holiday stress.

Be Open to Change

We all have festive family traditions that we enjoy. But it’s a mistake to try to cling to our traditions at the expense of comfort and happiness, as our children get older and perhaps our elderly loved ones start to face mobility issues and ill health. Instead of clinging on, be open to change if it means that your loved ones can have a nicer Christmas.

Involve Them in Planning

One of the most upsetting parts of getting older is losing independence. One of the first ways that this presents is loved ones making plans for older family members, instead of consulting them, or even asking them what they want to do. Don’t assume your loved one wants to do anything without first asking.

Ask Them to Help

Part of the joy of Christmas is making plans, shopping, and sorting everything out. You might think that by doing all of the work, you are making life easier for your older loved ones. But you might actually be taking away some of their enjoyment of the season. If they can, ask them to help you to make some of the plans, or even with things like cooking and wrapping.

Have Realistic Expectations

A Christmas filled with fun family activities might sound great. But your older loved ones might not be able to manage. Chances are, they’ll go along with your plans, and they might not tell you that they are struggling. Before making any bookings or firm plans, have an honest conversation about what they can and can’t do, and make sure you give them a chance to say no.

Make Detailed Travel Plans

If your loved one is traveling to spend the holidays with you, the journey itself might be causing them significant anxiety. Spend some time talking to them about their travel plans, and if necessary, arrange medical transport non emergency care so that they’ve got some support if they are flying alone.

Christmas can be a very difficult time of the year. If you have older relatives, one of the best things that you can do is talk to them about their feelings, ask them what they’d like to do, and what you can do to help them, and listen when they want to talk. Whatever you do, don’t arrange anything without consulting them, and don’t assume that they know that your plans involve them.

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