Two daughters celebrate the holidays at an assisted living community with their mother.

How to Celebrate the Holidays With Your Parents at an Assisted Living Community

Bethesda Health | December 19, 2018

When you recall past holiday gatherings, maybe you can still see Mom stirring pots in the kitchen and baking cookies, or kids bounding out of bed and running into the living room at dawn. Perhaps you cherish memories of decorating the Christmas tree or lighting the menorah as a family.

Whatever your family’s tradition, it probably included food, gifts, and relatives from near and far. However, when your parent lives in an assisted living community or a skilled nursing facility, celebrating the holidays as a family isn’t as easy as it once was.

If you live in another city and plan to travel to visit your parent but aren’t sure how to make the holidays special, consider these factors, along with a few different options to celebrate the holidays at an assisted living community:

1. Consult Your Parent First

For a parent in assisted living or a nursing home, the holiday season can be depressing, says Amanda Lambert, owner of Lambert Care Management and co-author of Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home.

“Think about how your mom may have always been the person to plan activities for the family around this time and can no longer do so,” says Lambert. “Holidays can be one more reminder of your parents’ loss of independence.”

Ask your parent what he or she would like to do for the holidays and give that person the opportunity to be involved in decision making, says Lambert. Don’t simply assume that your loved one wants you to magically transform this holiday season into a replica of past holiday gatherings.

“Accepting that things will never be the way they were can put less stress on everyone in the family to try and replicate something that may be impossible,” says Lambert. “Be flexible. Consider starting a new and different tradition.”

Find more tips for keeping your senior loved ones engaged during holiday gatherings on Bethesda’s blog.

2. Create a ‘Home’ for the Holidays

Even if your mother or father can’t get out and about, you can still create a holiday setting for someone who lives in assisted living or another type of senior living community.

If it’s an option, invite family members to celebrate at the home of a relative in the same city as your parent’s assisted living or skilled nursing community. If that’s not possible, rent an Airbnb house or apartment so you can decorate it and prepare a holiday meal, celebrating in a home-like setting. Ask your parent if he or she would like to invite a friend or two from the assisted living community or nursing home.

Before moving your parent to a different location to celebrate, Lambert recommends considering these factors:

3. Celebrate the Holidays at an Assisted Living Community

If you determine that your parent would become agitated or disoriented by moving to a new location for a day or two or isn’t physically capable of going out, you can still brighten their spirits and celebrate at the senior living community. Here are a few suggestions:

“Be prepared to also embrace those people [who live in the same facility] in some small way to make them part of your family,” says Joy Loverde, author of Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? “Make everyone there your friend.” If you need more room, ask staff in advance about using the community clubhouse or another on-site meeting space.

However you decide to celebrate the holidays with your senior parents, base your decisions on what’s best for them and is most suited to his or her physical or cognitive limitations. You’ll never be able to recreate those family holidays you enjoyed for decades. However, don’t let that stop you from being there to celebrate with someone you love. The more time you can spend with your parent, the better.

Families are busy during the holidays, and it can be tempting to shorten time spent with a loved one, says Lambert. “If anything, spend more time,” she says. “Think about how lonely it can be for someone left at a community during the holidays.”

Family and friends are always welcome at Bethesda’s senior living communities across the St. Louis area. Schedule a tour at a community near you to learn more.


By Deb Hipp for Next Avenue.

© Next Avenue – 2018. All rights reserved.

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