Holiday gatherings can be a time of shocking updates
Many families can only get together a couple of times a year for big holiday celebrations. When family members see your older adult, they’re likely to be surprised by their current condition.
You see your senior all the time, so the way they appear and behave is normal to you. But for others, it can be quite a shock – especially if your older adult has declined since the last get-together. Being surprised could make family members irrationally angry, ignore your older adult, or insist on making unwise changes to their life.
Let family know what to expect ahead of time
Minimize this unwanted behavior by giving your family a heads-up about what to expect before holiday events. Educate them about your older adult’s condition, explain common behaviors, and suggest ways of interacting that will help your senior enjoy the family gathering.
Especially shocking changes
By now, you’re used to managing your older adult’s health needs and daily activities. For others, many of the things that are now a part of daily life can be strange and scary. These are some of the things you may need to warn family about ahead of time.
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Being in a wheelchair or relying heavily on a walker
- Wearing disposable briefs and dealing with incontinence
- Inability to do things for themselves, like eat or use the restroom
- Unpredictable behavior or memory and cognitive problems caused by Alzheimer’s or dementia
A sample email letter – customize to fit your situation
We’ve written this letter to explain changes caused by age and dementia. Tailor your message to fit your older adult’s health conditions and overall behavior.
I’m writing to let you know how things are going with mom. We’re both looking forward to your visit and thought it might be helpful if I explained our current situation before you arrive.
You might notice that mom has changed since you last saw her. Some of the things you might see are that she’s lost a great deal of weight and looks frail. She uses a walker and is sensitive to larger crowds and too much noise. She also has some problems thinking clearly, so her behavior is a little unpredictable and may seem odd to you.
Please understand and don’t feel offended if she doesn’t remember who you are or confuses you with someone else. She appreciates your being with us and so do I. The warm feelings she’ll have after spending time with you is what she’ll remember.
Please treat mom as you would any person. She’s still “herself” inside even if she can’t express it. She enjoys warm smiles and hugs and will love gentle touches on her shoulder or hands.
This all might seem strange to you, but Alzheimer’s is a strange disease that causes unpredictable changes. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a tough job and I’m doing the very best I can. With your help and support, we can create a holiday memory that we’ll all treasure.
I’ve attached a recent picture so you’ll know how she looks now.
Here are a few helpful resources if you’d like to learn more about mom’s health conditions before your visit.
- Visiting Someone with Alzheimer’s: Do’s and Don’ts for Visitors
- Q & A: Should You Correct Someone with Alzheimer’s?
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Know the Difference
Tip: If your older adult doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia, you might want to select different resources to link to in your email. We’ve got plenty of info here on our website!
You might feel like it’s unfair that you’re giving family plenty of warning about your older adult’s condition. After all, you had to cope with the changes as they happened.
But this heads-up message helps both you and your senior. You’ll get fewer criticisms and rude comments and your older adult will be treated with greater care and respect. It will also reduce your anxiety about how people will react when they see your senior.