The holidays are a time of joy. Many people enjoy gatherings with friends and family, exchanging gifts, and other fun holiday traditions. However, the holidays can also be a time of stress, especially for seniors. Their exercise routines may be disrupted for shopping excursions. And special diets might be hard to follow due to big holiday meals. Furthermore, it can be exhausting for anyone. But when a senior has physical or cognitive limitations, it can be even more challenging. Yet there are so many ways to ensure that the holiday season is enjoyable and low stress for the entire family.

Licensed clinical social worker Robyn Golden recommends offering older relatives options of what they want to do during the holiday season. However, don’t assume their limitations. According to this Care article, a common difficulty with elderly relatives during the holidays is knowing they have limitations, but not being completely aware of what they are. While we can usually anticipate that older relatives may need assistance of some sort, they might be shy or embarrassed to ask for it. They likely are hoping to stay involved in family traditions and events as they always have.

Keeping seniors involved in every way they can is vital. Even if that means modifying bits and pieces of different holiday events. For example, food is almost always a huge part of any holiday tradition. In addition, we all know these delicious foods aren’t always the healthiest. Consequently, many seniors end up breaking their special diets, such as sugar free or low sodium. It’s important to make sure “safe” foods are made available for elderly relatives too. Ensuring that time for rest and breaks from all the excitement can be helpful as well. And just as importantly, making sure your home is accessible for elderly relatives will relieve any potential safety hazards.

Certainly we all enjoy our traditions and gatherings during the holidays. Therefore, recognizing that seniors will probably want to be involved, even with modifications, is important. For some, this could look like helping the kids with the holiday meal preparation. For others, it could mean helping to wrap the grandchildren’s gifts. Or maybe even starting a new tradition, specific to any limitations that may exist. Because with just a few preventative measures and willingness to change traditions, the entire family will be able to enjoy the holiday season together.