Spending the holidays with loved ones

Navigating the Holidays with a Senior Loved One

For many families, the holidays present a rare opportunity to spend time together and catch up on each other’s lives. If you serve as a care partner for a senior loved one, you may find the holidays also pose some challenges in the form of difficult conversations and volatile emotions.

Care partners who do not live near their loved one may find that significant decline has occurred since the last visit. Even if you see your family member frequently, you may notice troubling changes in the individual around the holidays.

What are some strategies you can use to navigate the holidays successfully with your senior family member and, if necessary, initiate a conversation about a move to a supportive living environment?

Recognize Warning Signs

Before your visit, consider the changes that would signal the need for an immediate alteration in living arrangements. A significant change in weight, grooming habits or household cleanliness can be signs that your relative has experienced significant deterioration in physical or mental health.

Impaired mobility — evidenced by prolonged sitting or indicating the presence of pain — also can be warning signs your loved one needs additional support and assistance.

Know the Options for Support

Before initiating a conversation with your loved one about a change in living situation, be sure to research the options. Depending on your relative’s overall situation and physical abilities, he or she may require either part-time or full-time assistance to remain in the home. A move to an assisted living community may be the best choice to help your loved one thrive in a supportive environment.

Initiate a Conversation at the Right Time

The best time to have a conversation about a change in living arrangements — for instance, a move to assisted living — is before an immediate need arises. However, if you see your loved one for the first time in a while over the holidays, be prepared to start a conversation about a change if need be.

Be honest about your concerns, and let your loved one know that you want to provide support in any way that you can. Use positive language as you discuss options, and be open to working through your family member’s concerns and desires for the future.

Handle Negative Emotions

Whether you broach the topic of a move to assisted living, you may find yourself dealing with negative behavior or emotions from your senior loved one over the holidays. Your family member may feel afraid or defensive following a conversation about your concerns.

While you cannot control how your loved one feels or reacts, you can control your own reactions. Try to keep your attention on the present moment without bringing up any prior conflicts, and understand that the issues may not be resolved during your visit. By starting the conversation in a gentle way, you open the door to continue moving toward a solution that will help your loved one continue to thrive.