November 19

How to Hold onto Holiday Traditions After Grandma Moves to a Care Facility


Are you worried that holidays will never be the same if you can't go to Grandma's? Gathering at grandma's house for the holidays is something you've done for your entire life. Your parents took you every holiday and now you're taking your own kids. 

Your family’s memories are made around the same table, in the same rooms, and with the same foods year after year. 

But now that Grandma has moved into a care facility what are you going to do? How are you going to hold onto those traditions? 

A care facility is never going to be the same as Grandma's house — but that doesn't mean that your traditions have to be sacrificed. You can hold onto the parts that are most dear and spend time with the people you love. Let us show you how.

Holiday Traditions in a Care Facility: Making New Memories

You love your family traditions and it’s hard to see them changing. You are upset your kids won’t get to experience all the same things you loved growing up. It’s depressing thinking about starting new traditions and meeting somewhere else for the holidays.  

But, you don’t have to give up everything now that your grandparents are in a care facility. 

You just need to get creative and find ways to adapt your traditions to the new situation.

Talk About It

Your grandparents are likely feeling the same way you are. Talking about it can help you both feel better about the changes you have to make.  

According to, 6 million adults over 65 are depressed, and the holidays can be an especially hard time for your grandparents. Where they once were the hosts of the party, now they feel like unwanted guests. 

They don’t want to be a burden on you, but they don’t want to feel left out either. Give them the chance to talk about their feelings. Listen and allow them to vent to you. 

However, if they don’t feel like opening up, don’t make them. Respect their right to keep things to themselves if they don’t want to share. Be supportive and show that you care. Let them know that they are on your mind — this can make a world of difference to them. 

Navigating the new situation and making plans early can ensure that your grandparents feel included and can safely participate in the celebrations with you and your family.

Make Sure They Aren't Alone

The last thing you want to happen is for your grandparents to be left all alone in the care facility during the holidays. If you live too far away or are otherwise unable to visit with them in person, make plans for other family members, friends, neighbors, or even their church to visit with them instead.

Technology can help you cross the distance.

There are some fantastic advances in technology that are simple to use and can help cross the distance so that they don’t have to be completely left out.

  • Consider setting up a video call with them during your celebrations so that they don’t have to miss out entirely. 
  • You can also use devices like cloud-based wifi photo frames to let photos of your celebration “pop” into a picture frame in their room during the party.

If you aren’t sure how to implement some of the technology, talk with the staff at the care facility or consider reaching out to your local college or high school to find a tech-inspired student that can help.

Take a Field Trip

Depending on your grandparent’s condition and the facility they are in, you might be able to plan a field trip for your grandparents so they can celebrate the holidays in your home with you. Just getting out and about can return a sense of normalcy for them and make the holidays that much brighter.

If you live too far away, bringing them to your home might not be feasible. You could plan to meet at another family member or friend’s house that lives nearby. Some other ideas would be to rent a venue (cabin, house, hotel event rooms, etc), meet at a restaurant, or take them somewhere special that has meaning to them.

Bring the Party to the Nursing Home

Your grandparent’s condition could make leaving the nursing home impossible. That doesn’t mean they can’t join in for the festivities! Most care facilities will have a room you can use on-site. Talk to the staff about your ideas and see if they can accommodate you and your family. This will allow them to fully participate in the celebrations with you without compromising their safety.

If the room they have available isn’t big enough for you and all your family, you might have to make different plans. Instead of trying to gather all at once to visit, make a schedule for visits. Block out days and times that each one of your family members and loved ones can come visit a few people at a time. That way your grandparents can still see everyone and feel included.

Recommended Reading: Ask the Expert - Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s Apartment?

Get Involved in Care Facility Activities

Making plans and managing visits can be exhausting. Trying to get everyone on board and delegate the tasks is a lot to take on. Most care facilities really do it up for the holidays. They decorate and plan activities for the residents to help spread holiday cheer and put a smile on their face.

Get involved with the events the care facility has planned. Family members and loved ones are generally invited and encouraged to participate. This could be a less stressful way to make new holiday traditions and memories with your grandparents now that they are in a care facility.

Keep the Traditions Alive

Classic Christmas movies, eggnog, stories, and other traditions that we enjoy every year are what makes it feel like Christmas. 

We all have traditions that are important to us and the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them. When your grandparents are in a nursing home, it can make it harder to keep up with these traditions.

That doesn’t mean you have to stop them altogether! You just need to get creative and think outside the box. 

If baking gingerbread cookies was a favorite holiday tradition for you and your grandma, bring the ingredients and supplies to her and cook them in her apartment. If her accommodations don’t include a kitchen, bake or purchase them yourself and take them to her. She will appreciate the effort either way and you can still enjoy eating them with her.

If Grandpa always puts the star on the tree, put up a tree in his room and help him decorate it. When it comes time to place the star, have him do it or help you if he is able. If he can’t reach high places, make sure to get a tree small enough he can reach the top. A tabletop tree might be ideal for this situation.   

Familiar decorations can really bring out the holiday feels. If they have any favorite ornaments, knick-knacks, holiday cards from years past, or other items that they pull out every year, bring them and put them up at their new place. This will help them reminisce and think about happy memories from holidays past. If these decorations might be too painful to have around, consider purchasing some new ones and starting new traditions instead.

Help Them Shop

Shopping for gifts might have been your Grandmother’s favorite part of Christmas. Picking out presents she knew would be perfect and seeing the joy on everyone’s face as they opened them could be something she is really missing out on this year. Help her participate!

Plan a shopping trip for you and her to visit the stores she wants to go to. If she can’t get out and shop, bring the stores to her. Online shopping might be too complicated for her to do on her own so take the time to go help. 

Deliver any gifts she buys to recipients in her place if family members and friends can’t make it out to see her. Make sure to have them send a thank you card so she knows they received their gifts and were thinking about her.

Give Them Meaningful Gifts

Your grandparents might be feeling left out and like no one cares about them anymore. Being in a care facility can make them feel like they have been discarded and are no longer useful. Show them they are wrong and are still loved just as much as ever. Give them a gift that really shows you were thinking about them and missing them.

  • If your grandma loves to knit or crochet, buy her some yarn or some new needles/hooks that would be easier on her tired wrists and hands. 
  • Does your grandpa like to play chess? Buy him his own chessboard and play a few games with him. 
  • Are your grandparents often cold? Have a photo blanket made with one of their favorite family photos so they can remember fond memories and stay warm.

The actual gift itself is not what is important. It is the thought that goes behind it. Just showing them you are thinking about them can do wonders for their overall mood.

Involve the Staff and Other Residents

Don’t keep your celebrations all to yourself! Share your traditions with the staff and other residents that might be feeling lonely this time of year. 

  • If your family likes to sing carols, sing in front of the other residents and let them enjoy it too. 
  • Bringing holiday favorites like eggnog and cookies? Bring enough for everyone. 

Just make sure to discuss dietary concerns with the staff prior to bringing in food to share.

Fill Their Walls with Cards

Letting your grandparents know they are still loved and on everyone’s minds is really important during the holidays. One way to do this is to fill their walls with cards from loved ones. 

Share out the postal address with your grandparent’s family, friends, neighbors, church, or other organizations they used to be members of. Ask them to send a card with a little note wishing them goodwill and letting them know they are thinking about them this holiday season.

Recommended Reading: Brain Health - How to Navigate the Holidays When Your Loved One Has Dementia

Let Us Help

Making plans and getting your family members involved is a lot of work. There are several things to consider and it’s impossible for you to think of everything. 

Let us help! 

Talk to one of our Professional Care Experts today and get the advice you need to make the holidays just as special as ever this year.

Request a Consultation

Life over 50 is complicated. From illnesses to general aging-related difficulties, there's a lot to learn and a lot to cope with. We understand and we're here to help answer questions and provide guidance on your options.

About the author

Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

President & CEO, Aging Life Care™ Manager

“I am dedicated to working with older adults and their families to maintain dignity and enhance their quality of life.”