Are you like me . . . dazzled by all the lights and decorations of the holidays, surrounded by the warmth of family and friends, and swept up with the magic? Are you then bummed when January comes and, as if with a flick of a switch, the parties stop, the mail is once again just bills, the lights are turned off, and we go back to life as usual? This is a difficult time for a lot of people – the dreariness of the winter months and the sudden letdown after all the excitement. I know it’s a huge letdown for me but at least I have work and all kinds of obligations to distract me. Sadly, it’s a particularly difficult time for our aging loved ones – most of whom don’t have work or other obligations to go back to after the holidays.

Here are some ways to extend your own holiday season and make it a happy new year for your elderly parents.

  • Hire a “personal assistant” to visit your parents once a week to write letters, print emails, send birthday cards, or even run errands. This is especially good if you are a long distance caregiver – or a local one who doesn’t always have time to do these tasks.
  • If you are a long distance caregiver or a local one who doesn’t always have time for visits, arrange for volunteers. This can lessen the loneliness for your elderly parent and give you peace of mind. If possible, start by creating a regular schedule of visits from family and friends. (Whether once a week or once or twice a month, the operative word is regular.) Then supplement the visit calendar with volunteers. Many colleges have students studying some area of gerontology and are looking for supplementary field work. Visits can include anything . . . having meals together, transport to places such as the beauty parlor or other outings, or helping around the house. What they do is not as important as being there.
  • Do your parents like to party but no longer up to the task? Arrange for a party in their home. Get together with your sibs and hire caterers and someone to clean before and after the event. That way, all your parent(s) have to do is decide on the menu and the guest list. The party can be for a special occasion such as a birthday or “just because”. It’s a fun way for them to socialize without the work.

Looking for something on a smaller scale?

  • You know all those pictures you took over the holidays? With all the phone cameras, there should be no shortage! Print them out and paste them onto note cards and send one every week or two. That way you can share the pictures and they will continue to get “good” mail.
  • Just pick up the phone and call! The sooner after the holidays and the more often you call, the more you’ll have to talk about. Because you already started the conversation during the holidays, you will have more to say (takes 2 to have a conversation!) and the easier the conversations will be.

Whatever you and your family do – elaborate, simple, or a combination of both – do something to extend the holiday spirit and keep the connection going. Be creative. Have fun. And make the new year a happy one for your elderly parent – and you, too!

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving™ 2010 You can find information about how to talk with your aging loved ones in “The Ultimate Caregiver’s Success System by going to www.AgeWiseLiving.com. While there, sign up for Barbara’s free monthly newsletter. You can also contact Barbara by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is the country’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University and host of Age Wise Living radio show on VoiceAmerica.com.

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.