6 Tips for a Joyous Holiday Season with Your Loved One in Assisted Living

December 15

The holidays are a time of celebration and joy for most of us. They may also trigger feelings of sadness for some older adults who feel the loss of loved ones or who may not be able to participate as fully in the season as they have in the past. To ensure that your loved ones experience a joyous holiday season, we have gathered expert advice from the caring staff at Willow Towers, who know that there is better way to brighten someone’s mood than to show them they are loved and appreciated. We’re also sharing a favorite holiday recipe—and how-to video—from our very own Chef David Shakin, who shows us how to make Buche de Noel.

Six Tips for a Joyous Holiday with Your Elderly Loved Ones

  1. Take them out to celebrate: If it is possible, pick up your loved ones for an outing to a relative’s home or a favorite local restaurant. This type of outing can lift their spirits because they feel vibrant and connected to community and family.
  2. Bring the celebration to them: When leaving your loved one’s nursing or assisted living facility is not possible, ask to have your family gathering there. At United Hebrew, families and friends are encouraged to host private celebrations in our community spaces, which can accommodate full-course meals, decorations, and plenty of people. Having family and friends in their new home helps keep connections to community and family that are so important at this time of year.
  3. Decorate: Families are encouraged to add decorative touches in their loved one’s room, especially if they are treasured items from the past. Be sure to ask them about cherished heirlooms such as Christmas ornaments or a family menorah. (If you are decorating their room, ensure that decorations meet current fire and safety standards, and do not present tripping hazards10. Encourage them to share stories about the past. If their facility offers decorating activities, like the tree trimming party we held at United Hebrew, encourage them to participate.
  4. Participate in holiday festivities: Our talented recreation staff has planned an array of festive activities, celebrations, and services for residents and their families: tree trimming, advent wreath candle lighting, Hanukah candle lighting, holiday cooking demonstrations, religious services, cultural performances, trips to Westchester Broadway Theater, and much, much more. Encourage your loved one to attend these events, which are designed to be fun and uplifting.
  5. Listen to holiday music: Make a playlist of your loved one’s favorite holiday music and listen together. Attend any music performances at their nursing or assisted living facility. This month alone, we have over 20 musical performances happening across our campus, including classical, oldies, Christmas caroling and Hanukah sing- alongs, and more! Music can trigger memories and happy feelings of past holidays.
  6. Cook traditional treats: Make baked goods or holiday favorites with your loved one. Find a recipe they used to make, shop for the ingredients, and if possible, help them to prepare the recipes in their apartment. If cooking in their room is not possible, make it ahead of time and bring it to enjoy with them. Their assisted living facility may offer group cooking activities as well (see recipe below!)

 Buche de Noel, by David Shakin, Chef, Willow Towers Assisted Living at United Hebrew 

Watch Chef Shakin bake and decorate Buche de Noel (Christmas Yule Log)

Sponge Cake

8 eggs, separated

1 c sugar, divided into 2 – ½ cups

2t vanilla

½ t salt

1/4 t cream of tartar

1 c flour

  1. Grease 2 half sheet pans and line with parchment paper. Grease the paper (you can use spray shortening. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the yolks with ½ c sugar until light in color and fluffy, beat in the vanilla and scrape into a large mixing bowl with a rubber spatula
  3. Clean the bowl and the whip very well and beat the whites with the salt until foamy, add the cream of tartar
  4. Beat to soft peaks and gradually add ½ c sugar while the machine is running
  5. Beat to stiff peaks
  6. Sift the flour over the yolks and scrape the whites over the flour
  7. Gently fold the ingredients together until no more streaks of flour are visible
  8. Divide the batter among the 2 sheet pans and bake until light brown and springy to the touch
  9. Roll the cakes up lengthwise and rest on the seam
  10. Allow to cool

Additional ingredients

1 c good quality preserves (examples: raspberry, apricot)

4 c of your favorite buttercream-frosting recipe

Lemon leaves for garnish

Assembling your finished Buche de Noel

  1. Unroll the cakes, spread with preserves, then roll back up
  2. Place the cake on the serving platter
  3. Cut off both ends at a 90-degree angle and reserve the pieces
  4. Ice the cake with the buttercream and place the reserved pieces on the cake at both ends (they will look like sawed off pieces of the log)
  5. Ice the pieces (not the cut end)
  6. Place some buttercream in a pastry bag with a small star tip and on the cut ends (4 on each cake) pipe a concentric oval starting at the center of each. (This will look like the rings of a cut tree)

Decorate the cakes with the lemon leaves and / or some berries or cranberries and sprinkle with powdered sugar to look like snow.

Chill to harden up the cream a little. Enjoy!