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Family Support Plan for Seniors During the Holidays

daughter with senior mother wearing mask

With the holidays quickly approaching, you’ve probably started thinking about what you’re going to do to celebrate the season. Making sure that all of your friends and family are included in your holiday plans can be tough enough to begin with, but it can become even more complicated if you have elderly loved ones in a long-term care facility.

It’s so important to make seniors feel included, especially at this time of the year—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that almost one quarter of adults 65 and over are considered socially isolated, which can increase their risk of developing dementia, heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions. The Health Resources & Services Administration has also stated that 43% of seniors feel lonely on a regular basis, and that there is a 45% increased risk of mortality in seniors who report feeling lonely.

With this in mind, we’ve put together the following tips on how to care for elderly loved ones during the holidays:

  • Spread some cheer. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities often decorate common areas, but are there any holiday decorations in your loved ones’ personal living space? If  not, you may want to add some festive touches. Even if there’s not a lot of room, you can probably fit a miniature decorated tree or some handmade snowflakes from the grandkids. Of course, check with the staff beforehand to ensure that you’re complying with any applicable rules.
  • Ask for their advice. In the days and weeks leading up to a family gathering, reach out to your aging loved ones and ask if they have any recommendations. Years of hosting holiday parties likely provided them with valuable insight on recipes, decorations, and more, and they’ll end up feeling more like part of the family and less like a guest.
  • Honor their traditions. If you have a family of your own, chances are good that you’ve started creating your own holiday memories, but don’t let your loved ones’ traditions fall by the wayside. If your grandmother loved a certain type of holiday cookie, for instance, whip up a batch and serve them at your family get-together (this will be especially appreciated if she doesn’t have access to a kitchen at her senior living community). Or, if your dad always made it a point to watch football on Thanksgiving, take a break from meal prep and sit down with him to watch at least part of the big game.
  • Spend some time reminiscing. If you happen to have some photo albums handy, especially ones containing photos of previous holidays, take a glance through them with your loved ones. They’ll probably love having the chance to look back on the past, and who knows—they may even end up telling some old family stories that you’ve never gotten to hear before.
  • Take things slow. Although you should certainly offer up some ideas for things to do, let your elderly loved ones take the lead. Depending on their current condition, they may not have the energy to keep up with certain activities that your family has planned, and you don’t want them to end up feeling like they’re holding everyone back. You should also plan on incorporating some relaxation time—whether that involves watching a holiday movie or simply chatting over hot cocoa—so that they don’t feel guilty for asking for a rest break.

COVID-19 Considerations

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has made holiday planning more difficult than ever. If you’re considering remaining socially distanced from your elderly loved ones to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, there are still a number of things you can do to help them celebrate the holidays:

  • Send season’s greetings. Even if you can’t decorate in person, you can still add some cheer to your loved ones’ living space by recruiting friends and family to send them holiday cards. They’ll love getting to hear from everyone, and the cards can serve as decor throughout the whole season.
  • Bring the feast to them. For many people, the holidays don’t start until they’ve tasted some turkey or had a sip of eggnog, and if your loved ones can’t come to your home this year, they may feel like they’re missing out. Help them feel like they’re part of the celebration by dropping off a plate of holiday goodies.
  • Take advantage of technology. Video chatting is the next-best thing to seeing your loved ones in person, so find a time when everyone is available to talk. With the help of the staff at their senior living community, you could arrange to video chat while you’re eating your respective holiday dinners. Or, you could even make plans to watch the same holiday movie at the same time.

Convenient In-Home Medical Care


Urgent care clinics and emergency rooms can be incredibly busy around the holidays, so if any of your loved ones come down with an illness or sustain an injury, avoid the hassle and reach out to DispatchHealth instead. We can treat almost anything an ER can, but for a fraction of the price. Contact us today to request an appointment.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

  1. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/elderly-loneliness-during-holidays-148441.htm 
  2. https://www.care.com/c/stories/5707/getting-help-with-the-holiday-blues/ 
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html 
  4. https://www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/january-17/loneliness-epidemic
  5. https://www.verywellhealth.com/celebrating-the-holidays-in-a-nursing-home-97727

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