Helping Seniors to Honor their Ancestors with Día de Muertos
Día de Muertos (also known as Day of the Dead) is a holiday in which people reflect on the lives of their ancestors and conjure fond memories of passed loved ones. Friends and family gather to create beautiful altars decorated with marigolds, flowers, candles, mementos, sugar skulls, gifts, offerings, and photos of their deceased. These gatherings are sombre, celebratory, and humorous all at once and take place in homes, in cemeteries, and in parks.
This ancient, time-honored Mexican tradition is celebrated throughout Mexico and by Mexicans living in other countries. Internationally, Día de Muertos is celebrated October 31, November 1, and November 2. With the large Hispanic population in California, there are many opportunities to partake in the festivities. As this is a sacred holiday, it is important to be respectful of the customs from the Mexican culture, but all are welcome to participate.
Día de Muertos is celebrated by people of all ages, but it is especially beautiful for seniors, who have experienced the loss of many loved ones throughout their lives and who are nearing the end of their life journeys themselves. Home caregivers can help the seniors in their care connect with and honor their ancestors with one or more of the Día de Muertos activities. If the seniors in your care are of Mexican heritage, the holiday may be particularly meaningful to them. This is one of the benefits of home care services — helping people maintain their traditions and sense of identity as they age.
Celebrating Día de Muertos with Seniors
Many seniors who receive home care services have limited capabilities for celebrating holidays. The following activities range from simple things in which anyone can partake to fuller and more involved Día de Muertos experiences. Home caregivers can check in with their senior clients to see which one of these activities they would prefer and if they would like to honor their ancestors on Día de Muertos. Do keep in mind that seniors who have dementia may have a difficult time with some of the festivities and that Día de Muertos activities should be customized to the capabilities of each person.
Display Bouquets of Marigolds
Marigolds are an important part of Día de Muertos customs. It is believed that the fragrant scent and vibrant color of these flowers attract the souls of the dead and guide them from their resting places to the altars or homes of their living family members. If a senior receiving home care services has limited capabilities, a few bouquets throughout the home is a simple and beautiful way to include a touch of Día de Muertos tradition.
Watch a Día de Muertos Film or Listen to Music
There are several films depicting the stories, customs, and traditions of Día de Muertos. This is a fun way to help seniors learn about the holiday or to provide Día de Muertos entertainment to seniors who have limited mobility. If you are looking for ideas, the film Coco released in 2017 is already an international favorite. Music is another way to incorporate Día de Muertos traditions. Seniors can either listen to music traditionally associated with Día de Muertos or they can listen to music that reminds them of their deceased loved ones as a way to conjure up old memories.
Create a Altar at Home
Creating an altar to honor one’s ancestors is a therapeutic and reflective activity. Home caregivers can help seniors make the plans for their altars during the weeks leading up to Día de Muertos. If the seniors are mobile, they can accompany home caregivers on outings to collect the materials for the altars. If they have mobility issues, their home caregiver can collect the items for them. Help seniors choose an appropriate place for the altar in their home and make sure to avoid fire hazards with lit candles. Seniors may choose to display the altars for as long as they wish.
Decorate a Sugar Skull
Skulls are the most common symbol of Día de Muertos and are represented in masks, figurines, painted faces, and foods such as chocolate or sugar skulls. The skulls represent the dead and the spirit world and decorative skulls are given as gifts to friends and family and to ancestors on their altars. Instructions for making sugar skulls can easily be found online, but essentially you will need sugar, meringue powder, a skull mold, and colored paste or icing. For something a little easier, you can instead decorate a ceramic skull with craft paints and glitter.
Host a Día de Muertos Gathering
Día de Muertos is a time when friends and family members come together to honor the memories of their ancestors by telling stories and sharing in festivities with one another. Home care services are a way to facilitate social time for seniors. Home caregivers can help arrange a Día de Muertos gathering in the senior’s home. This can be a lovely way for seniors to not only honor their deceased but to also enjoy the company of their living friends and family members.
Attend a Día de Muertos Celebration
There are many Día de Muertos celebrations and festivities in Northern California and throughout the rest of the state. San Francisco hosts a walking procession and a Festival of Altars every year, with the entire public invited to partake in the community altars that are spread throughout Garfield Park. Los Angeles has a full day celebration featuring over 100 altars at Hollywood Forever cemetery. Berkeley celebrates in the heart of downtown with community activities, music, altars, and a procession. In California’s capital, people celebrate at El Panteón de Sacramento, which features two full days of activities and events. These are just a few of the many examples of Día de Muertos events in California.
The Benefits of Home Care Services
There are many benefits of home care services, and one of them is helping people to celebrate holidays such as Día de Muertos. Home caregivers work on an individual basis tailored to the needs of each client to ensure the best possible care. If you’re interested in becoming a home caregiver or if you are interested in home care services, please reach out to Alegre Home Care at one of our many California locations.