Grateful Gatherings

As we prepare to give thanks and gather around the table…I remember.  I remember that it was just last Thanksgiving that we experienced a “first” in our community. It was the first time that all 16 of our residents were out with family at the EXACT same time.  It was a strange feeling for the folks that were working that day.  I remember them calling to tell me about it.  Oh, there is always plenty to be done and the staff was happy for the residents to be spending quality time with family and loved ones.  It was just a new first for our community.  What about you?  Is this the first year that you will be planning Thanksgiving after having moved a loved one into an assisted living? Are you concerned with all the preparation and worried about the visit?  Here are a few tips to help you stress less and enjoy Thanksgiving with your elderly loved ones.

Schedules and Timing

As much as you don’t want to plan out every little detail, you do want to give it some thought. Remember that if they are residing in an assisted living they may now be accustomed to a more structured routine.  You will want to check with the staff regarding medications and proper protocol.  You want to be sure to keep everything on track.

Food and Options

Our residents live very active and independent lifestyles.  They enjoy making their own choices and directing their care.  But it is important to consider their dietary needs.  Be mindful of food options.  Remember if Mom doesn’t need the extra salt or Dad needs alternative dessert options.

Time Away

One of the most common comments I hear from families is that they are shocked when not long after eating ….the elderly loved one is ready to go back to their community (new home).  Now naturally this makes an administrator very happy that a resident has come to feel comfortable in their community.  But don’t let it make you feel down.  Remember they have gotten on their own time schedule.  They are enjoying your company, but like many people after a gathering may need some rest.

As with all time together…just enjoy.  Make it special but don’t put too much pressure on your family member or yourself (for that matter) to meet unrealistic expectations.  Incorporate them into the conversation.  Maybe call ahead of time and get their special recipe for a favorite dish.  Spend time talking, relating and making treasured memories.  Savor these moments together and you ALL will come away from the gathering feeling grateful.

elderly african american man enjoying coffee with his granddaughter

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Thankful

November is typically the month where we stop and give thanks.  This year in our community we have a Thankful Tree.  Thanks to the talent and creativity of my staff members, this beautiful notion has come to life.  But the real beauty that you will find are the comments that are attached to the branches of this tree.  Residents and staff have given thanks for everything from health and happiness to family and friendship.  So, as our hearts and minds turn to the holiday season, here are some suggestions to help you prepare for those times we treasure the most.  Thinking ahead will make you thankful you did when it comes to sharing the holidays with your loved one that lives in an assisted living.

Stick to the Schedule

I have had families tell me time and time again that they were amazed that their parent was ready to go back home (to their ALF community) almost immediately after Thanksgiving or Christmas lunch or supper was over.  While they were surprised, in many ways it was comforting for them.  They realize that their loved one had made their community their home.  I am reminded of my own Granddaddy.  He was a man of routine.  He didn’t vary much from his schedule.  That is what I remind the families of our residents.  They have the tendency in some cases to become creatures of habit.  Trust me…they like a decent dose of predictability.  Don’t believe me?  Try canceling bingo!  But just try and be as flexible as possible with their expectations.  Plan ahead when it comes to medications and other necessities.  If you are prepared in advance it will be more Norman Rockwell and less National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

Don’t forget to Include Me!

Does Mom have a recipe for everyone’s favorite Caramel Cake?  Does Grandpa have a story that he loves to tell?  If you have ever had to suffer the loss of a loved one, you know that things like this will one day become a treasured memory.  If Mom is able, include her in some of the preparation process for the meal.  Or even just ask her advice.  Everyone likes to feel included.  Maybe you have heard Grandpa Pete’s story about his days in the war a hundred times.  Maybe this year is the time to write it down.  In our culture, we get so caught up in being in a hurry.  Heaven knows we all can be glued to electronics.  Take time to turn off and tune in to loved ones.  Your conversations will be priceless to you one day.

Conversation Starters

While the holidays can be a time for sadness for some, it is best to keep conversation light.  But many forget that while seniors may be older, they still like to engage.  We all love looking at pictures on our social media accounts, right?  Share with your elderly loved one the photos from the high school playoffs or the trip to the pumpkin patch.  The pictures can be made large enough for their viewing on most devices.  You may even want to let everyone in your family go around the room and tell what they are thankful for.  You may find as we did with our Thankful Tree that what you hear will bless you more than you ever imagined.

Great Oaks Management communities will observe holiday meals during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  If you would like to join your loved one for a meal, call and make your reservation today.