The Seder is an express train. Once it starts, it just keeps moving and there’s little time to think about anything other than are there enough matzoh balls? And will the brisket be tender?
Weeks before the Seder, you plan and think about how to make sure everyone feels included. I’ve come up with some suggestions for you to consider to help older guests settle into your home for Passover.
The most important advice that I can give you is to make sure that all of your guests feel included and part of the Seder. As we age, our roles feel diminished but in our hearts, we want to recite Chad Gadya, hide the afikomen and continue to feel like valued members of the family.
Here are some other thoughts.
• Make sure Bubbe and Zayde receive the invitation. If you are inviting guests via text, email or evite, give them a call, too.
• Most of my older relatives were notorious for being really early to family events. Nana and Uncle Al would park in front of the house and just wait. Of course, eventually someone went outside to welcome them into the house. But we always joked about it. So many years later, I think I understand why they arrived so early.
– It’s easier to drive before the sun sets
– Directions might be confusing
– They were excited to be with us
If Zayde and Bubbe are early, it’s okay. Sometimes it makes life easier because they can get settled in before the rest of the guests arrive.
How will they get there? Ask them.
• Offer to pick them up and bring them home. You can ask another guest to provide transportation. Some folks are comfortable using a ride service – many have apps for that. For those who don’t, assign a family member to make arrangements for them.
Check out Go-Go Grandparent (https://gogograndparent.com/). Call (855) GOGO-USA – (855) 464-6872. An operator answers and arranges rides for seniors. Pickups can happen within 15 minutes, or you can schedule rides in advance. Go-Go Grandparent works with Uber and Lyft to provide transportation.
Take a look outside
• Is the path to your front door clear and walkable? Is it well lit?
• If someone is in a wheelchair or uses a walker, is your home accessible?
• Do you have stairs at the entrance to your house? Plan ahead to determine an easier and safer way for relatives to enter.
• Assign a family member to help escort elders safely into the house.
Did you know? According to the Massachusetts state building code, a safe handrail is required for every stairway. My friend Selma went to a Seder and had no way of getting into the house because there were no railings. Everyone ran outside to see what was gong on and she felt embarrassed for causing a commotion.
If Bubbe and Zayde are driving, save them a parking space near your home’s entrance. If it’s easier for them to enter the house through the garage, put your cars in the street and let them park in the driveway.
Inside the house
Are there easy pathways from the sitting area to the dining room? Pick up any clutter (we don’t always see our own clutter or obstacles to getting around the house).
Even an area rug can cause trouble. My recommendation? Get them out of the way for the Seder and then put them back later.
I have two sturdy dining room chairs with arms reserved for my father and his significant other. Getting in and out of chairs can be a challenge if someone has pain, weak leg muscles or balance issues.
Everyone reads at my Seder and last year we realized that when the sun went down, the room was too dark for all of us. It never occurred to me (but that is probably just me) to think about lighting. This year, I’m thinking about it.
• Gluten-free foods? There’s always gluten-free matzoh.
• Allergic to garlic or onions? Have a few dishes without these ingredients and make sure there is easy access to them at the table.
• To buffet or not to buffet? My tip here is, it doesn’t really matter as long as someone stands by Bubbe or offers to prepare a plate for her if she needs help.
Cats, dogs, and the like
If you have a pet who jumps, kisses too much or wants to sit at the table during the Seder, perhaps you can make arrangements for him or her to spend the evening with a sitter. I adore my dog Murray (a three-year-old cockapoo), but most of my older family members love him from afar – as in photographs.
Everyone wants to be included in the banter. Just keep in mind that it can be hard to understand and keep up with the conversation if you have hearing loss. This is compounded by the volume of noise and the number of people talking at once.
If hearing is an issue (and hearing aids don’t work or aren’t wanted), try a pocket talker. The product amplifies sounds closest to the listener while reducing background noise. It can be used with or without hearing aids.
It’s hard to keep a Seder short, but be prepared in case Zayde wants to leave. Sometimes an hour or two away from the comfort of his own home is enough. Have transportation lined up, just in case.
What if Zayde or Bubbe doesn’t want to come to the Seder?
It’s okay. I’ve learned that as much as I miss loved ones, sometimes they are just more comfortable at home. It gets especially hard when one hasn’t been out in the world for a while – even if you’re having just a few people, it can be overwhelming. And there are personal needs that are just too difficult to disclose – like quick access to a bathroom.
Bring the Seder to them
Put the charoset, sliced brisket, kugel and desserts in a cooler and have the Seder at their place. It doesn’t have to be fancy – the most important thing is being together.
If your loved one lives in a skilled nursing or assisted living residence, oftentimes you can reserve a room to host your Seder. Check with staff to see how many people can be included.
Some residences will prepare food for you but this requires advanced planning. If you decide to bring your own food, add paper plates, napkins and utensils and a disposable table cloth. Clean up afterwards!
Package leftovers in small, clearly labeled containers. When you label, include the date that the food was prepared. If you are putting food in a fridge used by many people, make sure you put the person’s name on it.
Carolyn Schultz Eggert writes from Newton. Previously she was a reporter for People magazine. Questions? Please email her at Carolyneggert@yahoo.com.