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Making the holidays special for the elderly

Nov. 22, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

The holidays are fast approaching, and many of us are busy with our plans and activities to make the season special for our family and friends. If you have an elderly person in your life, you may be considering what you can do to ensure they also have a happy holiday season. Here are a few suggestions that can apply to those still living in their home, as well as older adults who live in a nursing facility.

The best gift of all is spending time with the older person. Children and grandchildren also can increase the older person's joy with their enthusiasm and energy. Depending on the older person's abilities, it can be meaningful to do a baking or craft project together, or to prepare Christmas cards or wrap gifts. Encourage the older person to talk about past holidays and family traditions.

If the older adult is able, they may enjoy being taken out to musical performances, plays, holiday light displays or social gatherings.

People with memory loss, confusion or Alzheimer's disease often find that memories are triggered during this time of year. A song, the scent of fresh baked goods or pine cones, or a brightly wrapped gift may be a trigger. Whatever evokes a memory, encourage them to share their stories. It can be fascinating to hear them talk about people, places and events from the past.

In terms of giving gifts, there are many opportunities. You may want to look for something to brighten up their home or keep them warm. If they enjoy reading, consider a magazine subscription or a book. Other ideas include photobooks or framed photos of family and friends, CDs with songs that were popular when they were young, classic movie DVDs, or items to make them feel pampered, such as a favorite lotion or body wash.

The most important thing to remember is they are people with past and future lives who want to be a part of things and to receive attention and caring from others.

Debbie Galuk is the director of nursing at River's Bend Health Care. She can be reached at 740-894-3476.

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