This is the time of year when families and friends gather around a table to enjoy each other and celebrate the things they are thankful for! Many families will be hosting grandparents and other elderly relatives and friends. It’s important to keep in mind that your aging loved ones have some special needs and things you should consider when planning your holiday meal and activities. Here are some senior-friendly tips for the holidays:
Holiday Meal Pointers
Two major things to keep in mind when planning your Thanksgiving dinner with Nana in mind is that she won’t be able to metabolize food the same way, and that her taste buds may be very different. Make plenty of side dishes that are easy to chew and swallow, since tough and dry foods are difficult with reduced saliva production and dentures that older people often have to deal with. Cut back on the salt to reduce risk of high blood pressure, and compensate with savory (not spicy!) seasonings. Keep nutrition at the forefront of your meal planning, since elderly people often have reduced appetites and need as much nutrition and good calories as they can get. If you can, prepare a special dish or two that your aging loved one loves!
Planning the Setting
Elderly people can have a lot of unique needs, particularly if their reduced mobility or condition keeps them mostly wheelchair-bound. Make sure there is plenty of space for them to maneuver at the holiday table. That could mean leaving space for their wheelchair or giving their chair (make sure it’s a comfortable one with plenty of support!) extra space for them to get their from their walker. You may also need to have the temperature set a little higher, or have a space heater to place near them, so that they are comfortable and warm. Clear the path to the downstairs bathroom so that they can easily get there, and if they have bladder control problems, you may want to have spare towels and cleaner at-the-ready in case of an accident.
This time of year can be very difficult both emotionally and mentally for seniors. Depression and loneliness are serious concerns; even if your aging loved one is joining in your holiday festivities. Keep this in mind, and try to plan ways to help them engage and join in with everyone else’s celebrations and activities. Simple games that they can play with the kids, old/classic music, and simply spending some time talking with them are good ways to do this. Sadly, this season is also likely one of the few times that you have the opportunity to notice symptoms of other illnesses, such as dementia.
In what ways do you prepare to host elderly loved ones over the holidays? Please feel free to share them!
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