Over the holiday season, it's common for families to notice their senior loved ones experience more physical or cognitive struggles than usual, making it difficult for them to participate in celebrations and traditions. These changes may signify that it's time for them to make the transition to a senior
Here are a few ways you can help support and compassionately ease them into a new life phase:
This transition happens to almost everyone; it's just part of life. So try to put yourself in their shoes and understand the complex, intense emotions they're feeling. Often, they're dealing with a loss of control and independence, fear of the unknown and change, isolation, and possibly illness or the loss of a spouse. Imagine how you'd feel if you suddenly couldn't drive or perhaps even walk, speak, or think with the same ease as you do now. Recognize these challenges and try to understand if they're occasionally moody, angry, or withdrawn. Understanding how they cope with challenges can also help you support them more effectively.
Listen more than talk
Even though it might feel more comfortable to avoid a difficult conversation and push everything under the rug, let your loved one express how they feel. Don't immediately tell them how wonderful the move will be; allow them to externally process their fear, confusion, distrust, or anger. Simply allowing them to do so will help them feel validated and respected.
Involve them in the decision making process
Similarly, involving them in important decisions about their new life when possible can help them feel validated and respected as well. While many well-intentioned family members may take the burden of decision-making upon themselves, leaving them out of the conversation may make them feel obsolete or unimportant, thereby intensifying their feelings of loss of control. Touring a facility or allowing them to meet the people there before moving may also help them feel like participants in the transition.
Involve friends and family
The need to connect with other people doesn't go away when you age. It's important for your loved one to understand that they have a supportive community behind them, even if it's just a few family members or friends. Make it a habit to check up on them often or send them videos, emails, cards, or letters. Make sure they have plenty of opportunities to socialize in their new home as well, which will minimize their risk of feeling disconnected and sad.
Being conscious of your senior loved one's needs over the holidays and beyond will help ensure their life change is ultimately as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. We hope these tips will help you through this journey; let us know if you have any other suggestions on our Facebook page! We'd love to hear from you.