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Managing Family Dynamics With Aging Loved Ones Over The Holidays

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

Most people have fond childhood memories of certain holidays and in theory, would look forward to reliving joyous family get-togethers. The weight of these expectations, however, can become daunting for adults as they try to recreate a setting that will live up to everyone’s standards and please everyone within families with constantly shifting dynamics. Working with elders and their families, we’ve found that, while holidays are an excellent opportunity for creating new memories and spending quality time together, they can be stressful for adult caregivers dealing with an aging relative’s declining health or mental status, as well as for seniors dealing with grief, isolation, depression, illness, or memory problems.

It’s important to keep in mind that the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for elders who live far away from their families, have recently suffered the loss of a loved one, or are dealing with chronic pain, dementia symptoms, or family frictions.

If your older loved one is suffering from loneliness or isolation:

  • Include them, not just in the festivities, but also in holiday preparations. You can do so by bringing them shopping for gifts or decorations, sharing (or asking for) holiday recipes, and cooking together.

  • If you or other family members or friends they care about live far away and cannot come in to celebrate in person, organize a virtual hangout! You can send food, drinks, or dessert to those you would like to involve and give your older loved ones a chance to check in with everyone and spend some remote quality time together.

If your older loved one has recently experienced the loss of someone close and their grief is coloring their holiday spirit:

  • Find ways to honor the memory of the person or people they are grieving. Include the person they have lost in your holiday toast and share stories and fond memories of them at the table.

  • Offer to go say a prayer in a place of worship together for the person they have lost, visit their grave together, or have a small candlelight vigil if you deem it appropriate.

If there are family tensions that will your older loved one is dreading with adult children, siblings, or other family members:

  • Discuss with them, beforehand, who they would like to include in their festivities and plan accordingly. If you decide together that it’s best to exclude certain family members or friends, you can let the people in question know that your older loved one is not feeling well enough to have a large get-together.

  • Lay some ground rules about topics not to be discussed if necessary and have an open discussion with your guests, beforehand, about wanting the holiday get-together to be positive and free of drama… Any reoccurring tensions or disagreements can be postponed till next year!

The team at Senior Steps, inc. is experienced in managing and facilitating difficult discussions between seniors and their families and would love to help in any way possible. Call us today for a free consultation if you are considering outside help and have a great holiday!

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