Many families have a yearly tradition of all gathering together for Thanksgiving, winter festivities, or both. Family members fly in from far away and others drive several hours so everyone can be in the same house to share a meal and gifts.
Unfortunately, with the health concerns and precautions around COVID-19, such get-togethers may not be possible this year. And there may be times in the coming years when such gatherings aren’t possible for other reasons, such as family members getting older and finding it more difficult to travel.
Fortunately, it’s still possible to enjoy each other’s company from afar. And there are plenty of ways to help your loved one who is living in a senior living community have a magical holiday – even if family isn’t present. Read on for a few tips to making this time of year special for your loved one no matter the situation.
Send a Care Package
Before the holidays even arrive, a lovingly prepared care package can work wonders to help lift your loved one’s spirit. Put together a small photo album with pictures of you and your family to send along, as well as a blanket, sweater, or slippers, and homemade treats like cookies and muffins. Candles, lotion, soap, or bath salts can also be a nice addition.
Set Up a Video Date
As the occasion moves closer, begin putting things in place to share the evening with your loved one over video. If your loved one is tech-savvy, this may not require any preparation. If they are less savvy and lack the technology, depending on your budget, you may be able to purchase a tablet computer to send to your loved one, or even an older model laptop. Contact your loved one’s community ahead of time to find out if a staff member can set it up and help them connect with you. Alternatively, many communities have devices available for residents to use and staff who are trained to help them use it.
Plan the Meal
You have a few options here. Depending on your family, maybe it doesn’t matter if you’re all eating the same thing. If it’s important that you are, options might include contacting your loved one’s community to inquire about what they will be serving that evening, and then making the same thing yourself. Some communities also take requests, although they may be too busy on a holiday to cook everyone’s favorite recipes. If you are close by, it may work to make your loved one’s portion of the meal ahead of time and deliver it for them to heat up for your get-together. Or you may be able to find a catering service that can provide your loved one’s meal.
Let the Festivities Begin
Ask your loved one or the community staff member to set the video device up at the end of the table and do the same with yours. Toast your loved one and act as if everything is normal, but plan on being careful not to speak over each other or carry on multiple conversations – this will make it hard to understand what is happening over the video device’s speakers. When the meal is finished, save the dishes for later. If this is when you usually open gifts, take turns and move slowly and deliberately, so your loved one can see exactly what is happening.
Happy holidays! Hopefully this guide will help you and your loved one have a magical holiday, even when things aren’t the same as they have been in years past. For more tips on supporting a loved one through these complicated times, visit the Brightwater Senior Living blog.