Coping with Christmas: Supporting your parents this festive season

Dec 03, 2019
Christmas can be a stressful time for families, especially when elderly parents are involved. Source: Getty

You can often miss the signs that your elderly parents’ health has taken a decline. Maybe you haven’t seen your parents for over six months, you live in another state, you’ve been busy with work , the kids are having problems at school or you’ve been trying to sell the house. Whatever the reason, the fact is life gets busy and it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks.

Then at Christmas you may notice that something’s not quite right. The tree is askew and the decorations are misplaced. Mum’s cooking doesn’t taste quite the same – she forgot the sugar in the Christmas cake and didn’t peel the potatoes.

Dad can’t seem to recall whether he’s actually made a home brew this year and his Christmas t-shirt is on backwards. The gifts are, well, just not that thoughtful. A couple of the grandchildren don’t even seem to have any gifts at all.

Or perhaps you currently care for a parent living with dementia and are dreading the festive season and the memories of Christmases past.

It’s no doubt a stressful period for many families, and more so when your parents are elderly or suffering from health problems. But there are ways to alleviate that stress this festive season for both yourself and your parents.

Change up Christmas Day celebrations

If you know that replicating the Christmas of the last 30 years is going to be a huge strain on your parents, don’t be afraid to shake it up a bit. Relieve the pressure from Mum and Dad by getting everyone to bring along a dish to contribute to the meal.

This will give everyone a chance to mingle, instead of having one person slave away in the kitchen to feed the family. If nobody wants to host the celebration at their house, you could make a reservation at a nice restaurant or take your celebrations to a local beach or park.

Divvy up jobs prior to Christmas

Instead of leaving all the jobs to your parents in the lead up to Christmas, rally the family together and divvy up the responsibilities.

Use the tree decoration as a task for the grandchildren and offer to get cleaners in before everyone arrives to alleviate the pressure of preparing the family home for guests.

Focus on creating new memories

Try and focus on creating new memories and live in the moment, rather than focusing on how things used to be. Take the time to celebrate what your parents can do, not what they can’t and don’t waste time and energy worrying about whether they’ll be around next Christmas.

If your parents suffer from dementia, take the time to look at old photo albums with them. It’s a very powerful tool to help remind them of who they are, what they’re capable of and what makes them unique – rather than just being known as the person who is living with dementia.

And most importantly, be sure to tell your parents how much you love them and how happy you are to be spending Christmas with them.

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