There’s a good reason so many holiday-themed films and songs mention going home for the holidays: home is a symbol for all of the most pleasant experiences in life. If we are fortunate, we can’t even step foot inside our childhood homes without it conjuring up heartwarming memories of our favorite foods, traditions, and sentiments.
Of course, as the years go by, our homes naturally evolve. Children grow-up to be adults; they get married; and they start families of their own. Mom and dad become grandma and grandpa; they retire from their jobs; and they deservedly gain back some of their freedom. Foods, traditions, and sentiments change over time. Some changes are easier to accept than others, however.
If you will be seeing older parents, relatives, and friends for the first time in several months or longer, you are likely to notice certain behavioral variations. Realize that this experience can bring up feelings of distress and grief. Complex emotions can be difficult to deal with, especially during this busy time of year. Here are some suggestions:
- Be prepared. Prepare yourself and your family as best you can. Discuss with your spouse and children ahead of time what to expect when visiting older relatives. Practice what to say and what not to say. You may need to prepare yourself to take on a new role, as more of a caretaker, with regard to your aging parents. Consider reading a book about dealing with the challenges of watching loved ones age. There are some good suggestions here.
- Be empathetic. Gently help older adults feel comfortable with the adjustments that need to be made. As striking as these behavioral changes seem to you because you vividly remember how different mom or dad was acting last time you were in town, notice that he or she is experiencing these changes more gradually. Have you ever noticed how there is a huge difference between how old you feel and how old you are? Well, the same is true of older adults. Remember that mom and dad may not realize or may be in denial about the fact that their lifestyles need to change.
- Be grateful. Acknowledge the help that other family members, friends, and neighbors have provided. If you have relatives who live closer to an aging relative than you do, recognize that they may have a different perspective than you do. Point out what they are doing right and consult with them when it comes to making necessary changes. If everyone can work together to make choices that are in the best interest of older adults, the results will be much better all around.
- Be respectful. When in doubt, approach everyone involved with respect.
Dealing with the challenges our loved ones face as they age and the challenges we ourselves face as we hold their hands through the process, takes a great deal of courage. It can be tempting, especially during the holiday festivities, to simply ignore the issues we notice. But if we strategize when we are feeling our most calm, cool, and collected, then we can reserve the times at home for creating more happy memories.
For the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home.