If your Thanksgiving holiday is fortunate enough to include multiple generations at the dinner table, here are some simple tips for keeping aging loved ones engaged, comfortable and safe during holiday celebrations.
Last Minute Thanksgiving Tips for Hosting Aging Adults
By Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC – Aging Life Care Association® President
When planning a multi-generational Thanksgiving holiday consider these ideas to help navigate a few common issues that might pop up with your aging family members:
• For those with hearing challenges or memory changes, navigating multiple conversations can be tough. Strategically sitting aging family members at the end of the table next to one or two family members who will be intentional about including them in conversations can often be the best way to ensure they feel engaged and included. Shouting across a room or even the dinner table, is rarely effective. More important than speaking loudly, is speaking clearly and sitting close.
• Don’t be shy about sharing stories and taking initiative with conversation. As memory declines, initiating conversations can be tough. It’s okay to take the lead with starting conversations.
• Focusing conversations on the present or sharing favorite memories is a great way to keep the conversation going.
• If aging family members have low vision or memory challenges, having family members introduce themselves can be helpful, “Hi Great Aunt Jane, it’s John. It’s so nice to see you.”
• Keeping rooms well-lit and bright is the best way to help those with low vision. To reduce the chance of falls, keep the house well-lit and clear any pathways.
• Offering a friendly escort to navigate the house can also be helpful for those with low vision, poor mobility, or memory challenges.
• Aging family members appreciate a warm house. Encourage dressing in layers and be intentional about seating. Save the “hot seats” for those who prefer being cozy.
Taking it Easy
• Less is often more. Families tend to over plan their time together, so schedule plenty of down time. The best memories are often made while simply catching up and taking time to be together. “Being” vs “doing” might be the best approach.
• If your planning on an evening gathering, encourage taking an afternoon nap before the Thanksgiving meal. Later afternoons or early evening can be a time that people with memory changes become even more confused. Having an early dinner can help ensure aging family members are more engaged.
• Integrating family traditions with new family activities can be an effective way to bridge the generations.
For more ideas, consider engaging an Aging Life Care Professional® to be your guide for navigating the changes with aging family members. Aging Life Care Professionals are experts in aging well and can help your family successfully strategize solutions to challenges of aging. You can find an Aging Life Care Professional at aginglifecare.org.
Lisa Mayfield is the founder and co-Principal of Aging Wisdom®, an Aging Life Care™ practice in Seattle. Trained and licensed as a Mental Health Counselor, Geriatric Mental Health Specialist, and a Certified Care Manager, Lisa brings over two decades of experience working with older adults and their families. She is currently serving as the President of the Aging Life Care Association board of directors.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.