Coming together sometimes means spending time with older family members who we might not see regularly. They may be living in residential aged care, or have cognitive impairment, or have struggled during the pandemic.
Whatever the circumstances, it can be helpful to plan these encounters in order to make the most of them.
Angela Christie, director of operations for residential healthcare at Masonicare, told News8 that planning an aged care visit can be beneficial.
“You need to have a plan to have a successful visit,” she said.
Visiting can actually put a strain on older relatives, and it’s important to be mindful that you don’t overwhelm them, she said.
“You can plan to visit briefly, maybe more often, because the strain on an elderly person to visit can be a lot.
It’s also important to be sensitive to what they might be going through, or have been through, and how that might affect their mood and the choices they make over the holiday period.
With a bit of forethought, these tips may help you create more satisfying engagement, forge a stronger connection with the person, and bring authentic Christmas cheer and joy to the situation.
1. Go for a walk
Take your older loved one outside so they can enjoy some exercise and fresh air. Walking is also a great time to talk, so perhaps think about any topics you would like to discuss with them as you take a stroll. Take it slowly, ensure they have support if it’s needed.
2. Take something to eat
Think about their dietary requirements, for example, do they require soft food. Sharing a meal or a slice of cake with a cup of tea is a familiar ritual that helps to reinforce memories and build social bonds.
3. Teach your loved one how to do something
Such as how to make a video call or how to play a game online. Not only is this a fun way to connect and engage you both with a common purpose, it will leave your loved one with a new skill they can use even in your absence.
4. Take an activity that you can do together
Such as a puzzle or a board game. However, consider their cognitive and physical capabilities beforehand.
5. Take photos you can reminisce over and to remind you of good times
Discuss events and people from the past, remembering to focus on happier times. Photos that rekindle sad memories may have a detrimental effect.
6. Play music you know they enjoy
You can create a playlist beforehand, or use Spotify to stream music. Playing music from the person’s past is a great way to bring back memories, which can then form the basis for conversation – or you can simply listen to the tunes and enjoy them.
7. Take hand lotion and give the person a hand massage
This is a wonderful way to create physical contact and can be very soothing and calming.
We hope these ideas help to bring good cheer and genuine engagement with your older loved ones, and contribute to a safe and happy Christmas for all.