Senior Living Q & A: Making Christmas special for mom

Q. I’m concerned about how to involve my mom in the holiday festivities without overwhelming her. Do you have any suggestions?

Try to include her in some holiday preparations. Give her something to do that is within her abilities and that will make her feel useful. For example, measure out the ingredients for cookies and have her add the ingredients one at a time. Or have her stir with a wooden spoon. Maybe she can help with decorating the tree. Occupying her time will help you get other things done, as well.

Maintain a sense of familiarity. Go easy on the decorations, and don’t move too much furniture to accommodate trees or other objects. Changing familiar surroundings can lead to confusion, especially for someone with memory or physical challenges. Extra cords, fragile decorations and piles of gifts can be hazards to those with limited mobility.

With all of the holiday hubbub, she could become more confused and agitated. Try to limit the number of guests in your home at one time, and make sure that someone is always aware of the whereabouts of your mom. If she tends to wander, there is a chance that this may happen when everyone thinks someone else is on watch.

Remember, it’s important to take care of yourself at this busy time. Ask for help. Don’t try to take on all of the burdens of caring for her and preparing for the holidays too. Take time for yourself. Something as simple as asking a neighbor or other relative to stay with her for a few hours while you get some shopping done can make all the difference between a calm and a stressed-out holiday. Spend an hour in a bubble bath, read a book, watch a sentimental Christmas special. Do something that you enjoy, and have fun. Your mood is going to transfer to her.

Knowing that this might be a last Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc., we may feel enormous pressure to make this time especially significant for our loved ones. But keeping your level of expectations realistic will make the day go smoother for you, your mom, extended family and friends. And that's something special in itself.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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