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10 Tips to Enhance Your Elders’ Holidays

1. Listen and understand when they want to talk, even if the talk is negative. They are likely mourning many losses. Don’t imply they are whining or that they should snap out of it. They can’t. Your empathy is vital here. Try to put yourself into their place.

2. Remind them how important they are as a part of your own celebration and that of the entire family. Be especially careful not to act like what you do for them is a duty. This can be tough, as your tired body language can show through. However, again, put yourself in their place. They may feel useless and burdensome. Remind them they are loved.

3. Holiday cards often bring bad news, and diminish in quantity. Often cards bring news of illness or death, and they may be very aware of the people they don’t hear from. So, help them write their own cards. They can use this connection with life-long friends.

4. Help them see that you are trying to simplify the holidays in order to bring back the real meaning of our celebrations. Let them know you are trying to ignore the hype that has increased over the years. Remind them that they taught you that it’s people who count, and thank them for that.

5. Check with your parents’ spiritual home. Visitors, can visit your parent or parents at home or in an assisted living community. These people undergo considerable training that provides them with tools to listen compassionately and creatively. This can go a long way toward helping with depression over the holidays.

6. Decorate their home or room in stages, presenting cherished ornaments for Christmas or a menorah for Chanukah at intervals so there is something to look forward to. By the way, electric menorahs are best. Check with their rabbi for help.

7. Bring traditional baked goods or treats regularly for your elders and their friends to share.

8. Call your elders’ friends and see if they can come to a party. 

9. Make their dinner table special. Whether your parents are at home or in assisted living, try to make the table festive with some appropriate colors and themes.

10. Spend time with them. This is the most important thing you can do. Look at holiday photos or videos with them and leave them photos in a handy place so they can walk down memory lane when they are alone. Play music. Listen to them reminisce. Your time is precious to you. You likely have a spouse, children and others who need you. However, your time is the most valuable gift you can give your elders during this holiday. Do what you can without stressing yourself beyond your limits. Your being somewhat relaxed is also important to your elders. Remember that you won’t reach perfection and you won’t please everyone all of the time. Your best efforts will be good enough.