Holidays and Elderly Parents: A Labor of Love

Last Updated on November 8, 2022 by Candi Randolph


The holidays are a time for family, friends, and fun. But for women in midlife whose parents are now elderly, the holidays may present new challenges. Your parents (or parent) may no longer be able to travel or participate in traditional holiday activities.

Or, they may travel to see you for the holidays and their needs are quite different than in years past. It’s not a matter of wanting them with you, but how to best care for them during this busy time of year.

holidays and elderly parents

This can make things difficult for you and your siblings as you try to balance your own traditions with accommodating the needs of your aging parents.

In this blog post, we will discuss the holidays and elderly parents, including the various aspects of the holiday season that may change when your parents are older, and offer some tips on how to best approach what could be a challenging time.

The Tables Have Turned

You’re in the thick of it now. The years have flown by and suddenly you find yourself in the role of holiday planner and event coordinator for your family – including your elderly parents.

It’s a lot to take on, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, they did the same for you when you were younger. Now the tables have turned and it’s your turn to make sure your family members have a happy holiday season.

But how do you find the balance between giving your elderly loved one what they need and making sure they are still able to enjoy themselves? And what about you, your spouse or partner, as well as your children and grandchildren?

It can be a lot to consider, no matter how large or intimate the holiday gatherings are.

Maintaining Holiday Traditions

maintaining holiday traditions when your parents are older

The holidays are a special time of year for many of us, a time when we come together to celebrate our family traditions and our loved ones. For women in midlife, this can be a particularly challenging time, as we balance the needs of our parents with our desires to enjoy the season with our children and grandkids.

There are many things we can do to support our parents during the holidays.

First, it is important to understand the importance of tradition to them. Our parents may have been celebrating the same holidays for decades, and for them, these traditions are an essential part of who they are.

We can show our support by helping them to maintain their traditions, whether that means attending holiday parties with them, cooking their favorite holiday foods, or simply spending time together enjoying each other’s company.

In addition to supporting their traditions, we can also help our aging parents by being aware of, and meeting their additional needs during the holidays.

This may include helping with transportation, providing assistance with shopping and wrapping gifts, or simply being available to lend a listening ear.

By taking care of our parents during this special time of year, we can show them how much we love and appreciate them.

Keep a Watchful Eye on Age-Related Changes

As we age, we know the changes that continue to occur in our bodies. The same can be said for our aging loved ones.

As adult children, it’s not uncommon for our parents to need more help. They may need help with things they could once do easily, like driving, cooking, or taking care of their finances.

Behaviors that may indicate your parent needs more assistance include: forgetting to pay bills or manage money properly, not being able to drive safely, having difficulty keeping up with housework or personal hygiene, repeating stories, or forgetting words when talking.

If you notice any of these changes in your

holiday celebrations. Your surviving parent may be grieving the loss of their partner as well as having difficulty thinking about getting through the holiday traditions as a single person, not a couple.

Here are some tips for dealing with this difficult situation, for you as well as for your parent:

1. Acknowledge your feelings. It is normal to feel sad, angry or overwhelmed during the holidays. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling, and don’t try to bottle it up.

2. Talk to your siblings as well as with your parent. This can be a good way to process your feelings and figure out how best to support each other.

3. Create new traditions. The holidays don’t have to be the same as they were before. Talk to your family about ways to make the holidays special in a new way.

4. Seek professional help if needed. If you are struggling to cope with your emotions, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.

My Experience with Aging Loved Ones and Holiday Traditions

I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges of wanting to give my aging parents the best holiday experience while juggling my own desire to be with my kids and their families.

There is a fine line that we walk, between giving our parents the respect of letting them make their own decisions, and knowing what might be beyond their ability to handle.

I found that honesty, respect, the ability to listen, provide new options, and compromise were the most effective ways to do holiday planning. And it continues today, with my mom still with us. It’s a joy to have her near, at almost 96 years old, and she does well when it comes to understanding and accepting her limitations.

It may be more work for us as a family, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Every holiday with Mom is a joyous occasion of family time and making memories.

Holidays and Elderly Parents – Best Tips

managing the holidays with elderly parents - best tips

Here are some tips to help you make the most of the holiday season while still taking care of your loved ones: 

1. This holiday season, you may find yourself challenged by your elderly parents. They may need more help than in years past, but they also may want to maintain their independence. It’s important to talk to your parents about their holiday plans.

If they don’t live near you, ask if they are planning on a holiday visit. Find out what they would like to do and how you can help them make those plans a reality.

You may need to get creative in order to accommodate their needs, but it’s important to make sure that their holiday is enjoyable and memorable.

2. The holiday season is a time when many of us are challenged by our elderly parents. On the one hand, we want to treat them well and make sure they have everything they need. On the other hand, their additional needs can be difficult to meet.

One way to alleviate some of this stress is to make sure that you have access to your parent’s contact information in case you need to reach them during the holidays. This way, you can be sure that you can get in touch with them if there are any problems or if you just need to check in.

Additionally, it can be helpful to have a backup plan in place in case your parent’s needs change unexpectedly. By being prepared, you can make the holiday season a bit easier for both yourself and your elderly parent.

3. If your parents are no longer mobile, consider bringing the holidays to their own home by hosting a gathering there. This way, they can spend time with family without having to worry about traveling.

Plus, they can have the comforts of home around them. To make this work, enlist the help of siblings and other family members to pitch in with cooking, decorating, and clean-up. And if your parents are up for it, involve them in the planning process too.

This way, they can have a say in how the festivities unfold. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your parents have a memorable and enjoyable holiday season.

4. It is important to remember that your elderly parents are older adults and capable of making their own decisions. Respect their wishes and let them know that you are there for them if they need you.

At the same time, try to enjoy the season and create cherished traditions for your own family.

By striking a balance between caring for your parents and taking care of yourself, you can make the most of this special time of year.


The holiday season can be a difficult time for families dealing with aging or grieving parents. However, by being honest, respectful, and willing to compromise, it is possible to make the holidays a special and enjoyable time for everyone involved.

These tips can help make the holiday season more manageable and enjoyable for both you and your loved ones.

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enjoying the holidays with elderly parents

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