Home For The Holidays: How To Welcome Older, Frail Or Alzheimer’s Family Members To The Party

Bringing the whole family together makes for a very special holiday. If an elderly family member, perhaps with intense medical needs or Alzheimer's symptoms, is being left out of the festivities due to their condition(s), it doesn't have to be that way. Here's how to include them on the guest list, without compromising their health and welfare or the family's fun.

What's Needed Around Your Home

You'll need more than a spare room in your home to welcome someone with multiple needs, but it will be worth it. Depending on how they ambulate, articulate needs and whether they're likely to get into mischief or something more nefarious with dementia symptoms, it could be quite an undertaking. Here are some things you will likely need:

  • Sleeping accommodations for your guest (and care giver if needed).
  • A bathroom cleared to make room for special needs supplies.
  • Potentially hazardous substances and objects moved out of reach if you're presented with Alzheimer's challenges.
  • A sitter or kennel for pets who could accidentally knock a frail person over.
  • Old photographs displayed for nostalgia or to boost memory for dementia-related issues.

The Equipment For Special Accommodations To Look Into

If your elder family member is in a permanent care facility, such as a nursing home, they'll require the same specialized equipment seen there around your house. Access to tools that aid in balance, rising from the toilet and so forth are nearly all available for temporary rentals; you might also ask someone in charge back at your relative's residence if families can borrow the needed equipment, just for special holiday visits such as this. Here are some things to ask for: 

  • A hospital/adjustable bed.
  • Wheel chair.
  • Ambulatory aids around the home and in the bathroom.
  • Portable oxygen.
  • Space heater or fan for individualized temperature control.
  • Accessibility ramp for stairs leading into your home.

How A Pair Of Hired Hands Can Help

To the relief of millions the world over, in-home care services and at home healthcare can work with you as you welcome a difficult-to-care-for grandmother, grandfather or other special family member. Just as these caregivers work in residences of elder or disabled clients, they can provide helpful services to you on the holiday on a temporary basis. Make sure all needs and details are discussed so there are no last minute problems threatening the festivities or the well being of your honored guest. Here are some of the ways in-home care services can help:

  • Sleep over if needed (awake overnight staff can be provided).
  • Physical assistance in grooming, bathing, feeding, walking, etc.
  • Monitor medical conditions.
  • Administer medications.
  • Disposal of hazardous material, such as syringes or bio-waste.

Having The Patience And Diligence Needed

While bringing everyone together is a rewarding experience everyone should cherish, it may not be the easiest endeavor for you and others acting in a supervisory capacity. You'll need to make personal adjustments and sacrifices to ensure potential problems are avoided. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Special recipes for diabetics.
  • Non-alcoholic fancy drinks if conflicts with medications could arise.
  • Lightweight, non-breakable table settings for arthritic or shaky hands.
  • Activities planned to keep your guest busy during meal preparations and other times you'll be inaccessible or someone designated to keep them company.
  • Practical gifts (if that's part of your celebration) that are easy to carry and present some use-value back at the residence, like photographs for the wall or a plaque commemorating the family reunion.

Nobody wants to be left out of family gatherings, particularly around the holidays. However, dealing with the woes of aging, including dementia, make reunions a major challenge. Why not undertake the steps necessary to bring everyone home for these special occasions, to enhance the sentiment, make wonderful memories and give the older, less agile family members the VIP treatment their years have earned them?