Celebrating Christmas with ageing parents

Posted on Monday, December 17, 2018

We’re not sure where the year went, but Christmas is right around the corner!

The holidays are indeed a wonderful time of the year. The whole family gets together, there’s plenty of yummy goodness to go round, and all in all everyone’s feeling pretty jolly.

It’s also a common time for adult children to talk about the changes they’re seeing in their ageing parents.

Of course, it’s all a normal part of getting older - some things just get a little harder.

Their mobility isn’t the best, and they’ve had a few falls. They’re forgetting things more than usual. And if they live alone, you’re worried they’re lonely, too.

You might have just started noticing subtle differences, or maybe you’ve already had some discussions with your siblings. While it can be a stressful time, just remember – Christmas is about love, laughter and just being together.

Here are 4 things to keep in mind when celebrating Christmas with your ageing parents.

Bond over holiday memories

For some older people, Christmas can feel isolating – even if they’re surrounded by family. They might be missing a partner who passed away, or maybe they’re just not able to get involved as much as they used to.

Make sure your parent feels included. A lovely way to do this is to reminisce and bond over earlier days.

Pull out the photo albums, retell funny stories (even if you’ve heard them a million times) and ask your parent about their most cherished memories.

Reflecting on happy days is a great way to encourage meaningful conversation and ensure your parent really feels appreciated.

Make new memories

Enjoy your time together and appreciate the moment. That’s a good sentiment to live every day by.

You can do that by prioritising face-to-face time and encouraging yourself and others to put the smartphone down (unless it’s for a group selfie!)

Group activities are a nice way to involve family members of all generations. You could play a classic game of charades - no equipment required! You could go for a short stroll to see the Christmas lights (with a walking aid in tow if needed). Or you could just get cosy on the couch and enjoy each other’s company – because that’s what it’s all about.

Be helpful

There’s a lot going on at Christmas time, and depending on who’s doing what, it can be easy to forget how much others have on their plate.

For older people with mobility issues, travel can be difficult, and if special plans need to be made to accommodate wheelchairs or other equipment, your parent could feel like a burden.

Consider bringing the celebration to them, or offer a better alternative if travel is too strenuous. 

For ageing parents that are used to hosting Christmas festivities and insist on continuing the tradition, be as helpful as they’ll let you. Do the shopping, help organise the linen and tableware, offer to bring some dishes and don’t take no for an answer when they tell you to leave the dishes in the sink.

Talk openly about today and the future

While it’s natural to have ‘the talk’ at this time of year, especially if some family members live far away – make sure that’s not the focus.

When everyone’s bellies are full and things are settling down, have a transparent chat about how things are going now and what your parent’s plan is for the future. It’s their life, so keep them involved in the discussion and the decision.

If they want to stay at home, empower them to keep on living independently. Talk about what could be done in the home to make it safer and more comfortable. If they need extra support, like help around the house, in-home physio and health care, or transport and social support, arrange an ACAT assessment so they can access a subsidised Home Care Package. A little extra help can go a long way in enhancing their independence, and might be just what they need to stay at home longer.

Or, if 24 hour care is the best thing for their wellbeing, hear what their preferences are and do your research. Again, you’ll need to arrange an ACAT assessment – your parent can talk to their GP who can set it up for them.

Whatever you do, just approach it positively.

At Brightwater, we provide a range of living options for seniors, including at home services, residential aged care and retirement villages. Our team can guide you through the first steps, and give you an idea of what’s possible.

READ: Getting started with Brightwater At Home
READ: Getting started with Residential Aged Care