Accommodate Everyone This Holiday Season

Holidays can be overwhelming. From the stress of preparing and hosting to the noise, crowds, and overabundance of food, some people would rather hibernate until the New Year (or at least take a long winter’s nap when it’s all over). The holidays can also be stressful for seniors and individuals with mobility challenges.

If you will be hosting older relatives or friends with mobility challenges this holiday season, consider making these special arrangements for your guests:

  1. Travel: Ask in advance if and how you can help with travel arrangements. Does your grandmother need transportation? Does your father-in-law need a wheelchair van or portable ramp to make traveling to your home a bit easier? Identify and plan for transport challenges so you can assure an RSVP from everyone.

  2. Timing: You may be more of a night owl, but think about how a party’s starting and ending time may affect your guests. If you are responsible for driving a loved one home when the party is over, be sure to factor that into your start and end time. Remember that sundowning is a very real thing for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia: having a party during sunset could prompt a panic attack. Consider starting the celebration earlier, or at least have plans to take your guest home before that transition occurs. Check out this Healthline article for advice on reducing the effects of sundowning.

  3. Food: Make sure that everything is set up within reach of guests who may be in a wheelchair or power chair. Assist those who may not be able to carry food or drinks due to a cane or walker. Check ahead of time for any special dietary needs. Some older adults may have difficulty swallowing (following a stroke or due to Alzheimer’s), so have a thickening powder on hand or offer foods that are easier to chew and swallow.

  4. Location: Your home is your castle, but to someone with a disability, vision impairment, cognitive challenges, or other issues, it could be a danger zone. Before the party, remove (or adequately secure) rugs or power cords that double as trip hazards. Cut down the clutter, rent a portable ramp, and ensure adequate lighting throughout the entire party.

  5. Check-in companion: As the host/hostess, you may be too busy to check in with your older guests once the party’s in full swing. Delegate a family member or friend to keep an eye on your loved one throughout the event, offering help when needed and making sure he/she is comfortable and safe.

  6. Quiet room: The noise and amount of people at a holiday gathering can be quite upsetting to someone with Alzheimer’s or sensory conditions. Additionally, some people may have other health issues or medication effects that can cause fatigue/exhaustion. Designate a “quiet room” for guests to retreat to as needed throughout your gathering.

Get more great holiday tips from our other blog: Holiday Hostess with the Mostess: How to Accommodate Visitors with