Many of us have aging parents—or grandparents—in long-term care facilities. This can be especially difficult during the holiday season. How do you balance seeing your loved one, visiting your in-laws, and taking care of your own family? Whether your loved one is in a senior living facility temporarily or long-term, chances are, your loved one feels a bit discouraged that they aren’t home for Thanksgiving. Even though they are well cared for, it can be a difficult adjustment to make. But being away from home doesn’t mean they can’t join in on the joyous occasion! Why not bring Thanksgiving to your family member or invite them to join the festivities? There’s no reason you can’t find a way to include them—even if it is for just a few hours.
Make your loved one part of the holiday conversation. Discussing plans with them will make them feel included, valued, and important. Your loved one might prefer to go to your place or to invite you to a special event being thrown by their facility. They may be afraid of falling or don’t want to go out in the cold, so they might prefer to stay in their new home rather than being picked up to go to your place.
Bring them to you! If your loved one is able to leave the facility, by all means, scoop them up! This may require a doctor’s note, some special travel arrangements, and some rearranging at home, but the smile on their face when their granddaughter pops a seat on their lap during dessert will be well worth any extra work you put in. Be sure to mind their schedule (pills, sundowing in Alzheimer’s sufferers, etc.). They might tire faster than you—especially after all that turkey!—so a few hours back in the family home will be enough to warm their heart.
Bring the tradition to them! Reserve a community room at the facility where your loved one resides, if you can, and grab the whole family. If a room isn’t available, schedule different days for 1 or 2 family members to visit at a time. Bring them special treats, reminders of home, and decorations to make their room feel merry, too. Better yet, make them up a big plate of leftovers—pie included—and bring it over (as long as you are following dietary restrictions, this should be fine). Be sure to share the love; if your loved one’s roommate is alone this Thanksgiving, invite them to join or share some food if their diet allows. Try to keep up the routine of visiting more often all holiday season long. Imagine how special they’ll feel if they have a consistent stream of visitors bringing them holiday cheer.
If you plan on visiting, be sure you’re there within visiting hours (if there are any). Try not to interfere with any routines (like baths, medications, therapy, etc.). If you plan on sharing a meal with your loved one, let the facility know ahead of time so they can prepare accordingly. Inquire about any necessities they may need before you visit, too.
Send cards or gifts. Sending cards to your loved one in a senior living facility all holiday season long will let them know they aren’t forgotten. Remind your other family members to include them on their holiday card list, too, and give them the address of the senior living facility. Gifts that serve as reminders of traditions or family memories will put a smile on their face that lasts the whole season.