Bernice sent out holiday cards every year, and they were a big deal: she had a photo of herself in holiday garb and wrote a poem full of wit to go with the photo. The cards were sent to 200 friends and relatives, so there were lots of envelopes to address. As macular degeneration made it more difficult to see, the joy-filled project became a burden.
Then there was the tipping. In New York’s large apartment buildings, as many as 20 envelopes needed to be prepared for maintenance staff and doormen. The newspaper delivery folks, the housekeeper, the hairdresser and others also depend on the generosity of their clients at the holidays. As the process of writing notes and addressing envelopes became more difficult and time-consuming, the enjoyment of giving to others dissipated for Bernice.
Bernice took pleasure in decorating her home for the holidays and in entertaining. Unfortunately, her visual impairment limited her ability. Just getting dressed and doing the regular activities of the day consumed her time and kept her from doing the extra things she loved. So, the festive decorations were limited and entertaining declined.
In Bernice’s case, she had no immediate or extended family close by. But … she had Gideon Schein, who she described as her “paid son”. Gideon was glad to help. He photographed Bernice, typed up her poem, took the materials to the printer, and addressed the envelopes. Gideon also helped with preparing tips. Once an aide was hired for Bernice, the aide was able to put up holiday decorations under Bernice’s guidance, which made it more fun for Bernice to share her home with others, and her friends and family were delighted that the traditions continued.
Now is the time for families to check in with their seniors and see if there are ways that they can be helped so the joy of the season can be maintained and the stress of the holidays minimized. To help ease the stress, we have put together a short list of holiday family tips that easily include older loved ones.