For many, the holidays are filled with celebrations and festivities with family and friends, but it can be a worrisome time for those who have difficulty getting around, or are confined to their homes. Older adults might choose to forego family celebrations and festivities for fear of falling or being a burden. By skipping family functions, older adults may have increased feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holidays.
Unfortunately, a day out with an older adult cannot be spontaneous. However, with a little pre-planning and few modifications, holiday traditions and activities can be made easier and safer for older family members. Contemplate ways to include older relatives who may have difficulty getting around.
First, consider the activity. Is it suitable for every family member? When planning, consider these factors:
- How far can the person travel?
- Are the costs affordable to someone on a limited budget?
- How much walking is involved? Are there hills or other obstacles that would make it hard to navigate?
- Is there wheelchair access?
- Is there parking nearby?
- Are restrooms easily accessible?
- Are there benches or chairs that can be used?
It is also important to think about what you need to take with you on any outing. You will want to be prepared for anything. For example:
- Make sure you have all the medications needed. Take an extended supply, just in case you are still out when the next dose is due.
- Have clothing appropriate for the weather and the outing. Comfortable shoes and warm weather clothes are important.
- Bring some snacks and plenty of water.
Once you get to the activity, the next step is to be alert to any hazards or problems that might occur. Holidays are a joyful time of year meant for get-togethers, memories, and a touch of nostalgia. However, the holiday season can be one of the most dangerous times for older persons. For example:
- Be aware of how decorations may affect your loved ones ability to move freely throughout the home without increasing the risk of falls. Just because you can easily navigate the extra decorations, doesn’t mean that your loved one will.
- Look for extension cords or floor rugs that can lead to a fall.
- Consider the effect that too much clutter can have on a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Too many lights, music and decorations can prove to be overstimulating and overwhelming.
- Make sure that walkways are clear of ice and snow.
The holidays give older adults something to look forward to, provide a stimulating change of scene, and create pleasant memories to carry with them. So, even though it may take a little extra planning and work, involving your older family members in holiday celebrations can improve the meaning of the holiday season.
Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County
Reviewed by: Carmen Irving, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County