Anyone who’s hosted family for holiday meals knows how much work it is, no matter how prepared you are ahead of time. If the mix includes elderly family members, it can be extra challenging to help them feel included and accommodate their needs while not losing the rest of the group. Over the years we have helped families strategize around these events and learned a lot from them, too, on how to welcome Mom or Dad into the gathering and create a safe and fun environment for all. Here are some tips to check out if you’ve taken on hosting duties this year:
- First, do a safety check of your home to prevent unnecessary falls. Tuck all charging and power cords out of the way; roll up any throw rugs, or secure them with double-face tape; stow your dog bed or any other low items safely away from walking paths.
- If Dad isn’t a great candidate for cocktail hour conversation, have some easy tasks ready for him. Snapping the ends off green beans, shelling peas, peeling carrots are all nice options for engaging Dad before dinner, perhaps in the kitchen with you, quiet and out of the fray.
- At mealtime, seat Dad next to an adult who can keep an eye on his needs – bringing him his plate, assisting with cutting portions, escorting him to the rest room, engaging in conversation (someone other than you!). If you have capable older children who are up to the task, assign them jobs during the meal – filling Grandpa’s water glass, for example, or checking in to see if he needs anything not reachable at the table.
- Think of ways to engage Dad after dinner that the whole family can join in on. Maybe that means playing some tunes he can sing along to, or watching family videos. Or throw on a movie he would love that the whole family can enjoy! Here’s a great list of titles to get you thinking.
Want more ideas? Check out this helpful piece on holiday celebrations with seniors, from the folks at Generation Solutions.