Gathering for the Holidays: Helping Seniors Celebrate the Moment and the Memories

Observing family holiday traditions—like gathering around the Christmas tree to sing favorite carols or lighting a Menorah—can go a long way to adding joy and comfort to a senior’s family holiday celebration.

Holiday gatherings also give adult children an opportunity to talk with their parents to sense and observe whether they are doing well or if they may need help to maintain their independence.

The Mayo Clinic (, for instance, suggests certain signs and changes to look for in seniors. These can include:

  • Weight loss, which could indicate serious health problems, assuming that the loss is not part of an intentional health improvement plan. It could indicate conditions such as malnutrition, dementia, depression, heart failure or cancer. Or it could be that the senior is lacking the energy or dexterity to prepare meals.
  • Housework and home maintenance, which if it appears to have been neglected, could point to physical impairment or depression. Also look around the house for safety issues such as tripping hazards. Or, is the senior having trouble with stairs?
  • Do the seniors appear to maintain good hygiene and dress well? Does it look like they are still taking good care of themselves
  • Mood. Do they seem normal or out of sorts? Are they still involved in their hobbies and interests and getting together with friends? Or do they seem withdrawn or blue?
  • Physical abilities. Do they appear to be getting around the house OK? Or are they unsteady on their feet?

These kinds of observations open the opportunity to talk with aging parents about their possible need for accommodations or assistance around the home. Emotional partings at the end of holiday reunions could, in fact, have something to do with the seniors feeling less confident than they used to in living independently.

Now is the time to invite them to share their concerns, find out how you can help and discuss with them options, such as in-home caregivers who can assist with the things they are beginning to have difficulty with.

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