Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baking Russian Tea Cookies & Breaking Oplatki: Making Holidays Special

The Holiday Season joins family and friends together to share tradition and build memories. This is the time of year we reconnect with those loved ones we may not see regularly—including elderly family members.

Make sure the Holidays are enjoyable for everyone. Elderly family members may require special consideration when planning your holiday celebrations. Preempt restrictions and be creative.

Be prepared. The Holidays are an opportunity to see some family we haven’t seen in a while. What seemed—to those in most regular contact—a natural, incremental physical or mental change for an aging individual may come as an alarming surprise. If you haven’t seen Aunt Eleanor in some time, her waning vision may be startling to you.

Avoid alarm by being prepared for changes. Then, take the necessary steps to see to it that your family member is being cared for by those closest to him or her. Have a conversation with the family member/s responsible for direct care. Be sure that elderly family member is being cared for appropriately.

Clear the Way. Salt the sidewalks and save a prime parking spot in the driveway for an elderly family member or the car they come in. If an elderly family member has mobility issues, make sure you’ve cleared the way within your home to navigate safely with a walker or other assistance.

Bring Holiday Cheer. During the Holidays we find ourselves reminiscing of seasons past. This can bring both joy and pain. The Holidays can conjure up mournful memories of lost loved ones.

This is especially so among elderly family members who may have lost their spouse, siblings and friends. Anticipate these Holiday woes, and plan to do something that will bring the family into joyous remembrance of lost loved ones. Gather pictures of Holidays past with your loved one and share them as a group, giving everyone the opportunity to share personal anecdotes. Reminisce and laugh. Laughter will not only lift spirits, it’s good for overall health.

Acknowledge a Beacon of Tradition. Make your elderly loved one feel important. If they’re unable to participate in activities as before, try to find creative ways to incorporate them.

Have mom manage cookie baking, and ask for her expertise when following a family recipe. Let her know her prowess is an essential ingredient to baking success and the continuation of family tradition.

She’ll gain secret satisfaction in knowing that your Russian Tea Cookies are a sore imitation without her.

Restore an Old Tradition. Return to your childhood for inspiration. Try to remember Holiday traditions from your childhood that elderly family members would enjoy and appreciate. Holiday traditions that honor family heritage are of special sentimental value to elderly family members, and reinforce identity and self-respect.

Our family begins the holiday celebration by exchanging blessings while breaking Oplatek, a traditional unleavened wafer. We embrace one another with hugs and well wishes for the coming year.

Show the Love. If an elderly family member has dietary restrictions, has a favorite holiday dish, or has a unique preference, try to accommodate. This will make your elderly loved one feel special and loved. Acknowledge that you made a specific food or prepared something in a specific way just for them!

Being in tune with the needs of our elderly family members this holiday season may be the greatest gift they can be given in this gift-giving time. Making special preparations in consideration of our loved ones reinforces their value and reminds them that they remain an important part of the family.

Our elderly family members are bearers of holiday tradition and family heritage. Remind them that these are the precious, matchless gifts they’ve given our families!

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