home for the holidays

The word “holidays” can trigger any number of reactions from people – joy, dismay, excitement, dread. You name it, someone is feeling it! Sometimes it is the thought of meeting family that can send one into a psychotic spiral. While for others, seeing a favorite family member is actually the best part of the holiday season!

Sometimes, though, these anticipated reunions can be jarring when seeing older
relatives, especially if it’s been a while. Your heart can sink when you go in for that hug with your mother and you realize she is suddenly so much smaller, or when you see your father holding on to furniture as he moves through the room. When did THAT happen? Subtle differences, to be sure, but differences, nonetheless.

It becomes one of those defining moments when you realize a new phase of life has emerged. Your parents are noticeably aging. It’s time to assess their health and lifestyle to ensure their day to day needs are being met (Are they eating enough?) and that their quality of life is not being compromised. (Are they still getting out, socializing?) They may feeling overwhelmed by their day-to-day household tasks. (Is it time to de-clutter, clean out closets?) What are their thoughts, worries or ideas for managing these changes? Do they have a plan?

If not, it might be good to discuss some immediate solutions. For seniors who are not already part of a social network or who do not have nearby family members to look in on them, one suggestion could be that they attend their local senior center for a hot, nutritious meal each day. Or, if they are not up to going out, some centers will deliver the meals to their homes. Then, in the evening, they can just prepare something light since they’ve already had their main meal for the day.

Obviously, the socialization component of the senior centers is a positive feature with scheduled onsite events and day outings. (Programs vary from town to town) These often include shopping trips to supermarkets and retail centers which is a great help for those seniors who no longer drive.

There are also a variety of senior clubs/hobby groups that meet regularly and can offer a wonderful opportunity for socializing and making new friends. All of this camaraderie often results in networking and problem-solving among seniors who can then recommend resources to each other based upon their own experiences.

Click here for more information on senior centers and clubs in Westchester: https://seniorcitizens.westchestergov.com/senior-programs-and-services/senior-clubs-and-centers

And, in terms of managing their homes, seniors might appreciate some assistance in down-sizing their “stuff.” We all have it and we all know how difficult it is to purge ourselves of those items sitting in our closets (clothes that don’t fit), cabinets (dishes we never use) and garages (with boxes of who-knows-what that haven’t been opened in years). Not only do these items take up space in our house, but also in our head as we stress over seeing it every day. How liberating to be rid of all those unwanted items.
This initial intervention regarding health and home can help you and your loved one stabilize their current needs, catch your collective breath and continue the conversation regarding preparation for upcoming future health needs.

So, this year, as the holidays roll around and you are seeing elderly relatives for the first time in a while, be aware of some of those tell-tale signs that they may be needing a little help, as they may not yet realize it themselves. Or maybe they do, but are in a little bit of denial over it. Most of all, though, enjoy the holidays with them! It is always a wonderful time for shared remembrances and celebrations and a chance to make new holiday memories, too!

Cathy SantaColoma

Cathy SantaColoma

Cathy SantaColoma is Director, Communications of Bethel Homes & Services, a not-for-profit organization offering a full continuum of care including: independent and assisted living; nursing; rehabilitation; adult day services; and home care. Campuses are in Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining and Valhalla; 914-739-6700.
Cathy SantaColoma

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