For adults, the holiday season can bring on a mixed bag of emotions. There’s excitement and anticipation, certainly. But for many, the hectic schedules and high expectations of the holidays can also bring feelings of stress and anxiety.
The same goes for seniors. For many older adults, the holiday season can bring with it feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression, for any number of reasons: being far from family, not having anyone to share a special day with, having to eat meals alone. It’s easy for seniors to feel cut off or excluded at this time of the year, left feeling like they’re on the outside looking in.
It’s also important to remember that not every older adult will show the same signs of loneliness and isolation. Some of your older loved ones may even insist that you don’t go to any extra trouble to make them feel included, even if they’re hurting on the inside. For others, loneliness may manifest as withdrawing from the social activities they do have on their calendar. Feelings of depression and loneliness may result in seniors not eating, sleeping, or staying up on their housekeeping.
Around the holiday season, it’s particularly important to keep an eye on your senior loved ones, and to take steps to make sure that they feel seen, heard, respected, and loved.
In fact, the benefits of reaching out and making sure that your loved one is socially active could be enormous. Many different studies have shown that helping seniors stay socially engaged can help lower rates of chronic disease, dementia, depression, and death. One commonly cited statistic suggests that having to be socially isolated for a long time could be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Taking a few little steps this winter could make all the difference in preserving your loved one’s happiness – as well as their health. Fortunately, the holidays are all about bringing people together in joyous celebration, and there are many steps you can take to make sure your elderly loved ones feel supported and seen, all winter long.
Include Your Senior Loved Ones In Family Celebrations
One important step you can take is to bring your loved one in to family celebrations, taking care to make sure that their needs are accommodated. This may mean making some new holiday traditions! For instance, instead of a long walk, consider a drive around the community. Or, perhaps, consider making more time for in-home activities, like baking or flipping through old photo albums together, rather than hitting every holiday party and seasonal sale at the mall. Even a small family gathering may be just what it takes to make sure your loved one feels included.
Make Room for One-on-One Time
For many seniors, the holiday season hassles that we tend to take for granted can be physically and emotionally daunting. Your older loved one may not want to, or be able to, be a part of an enormous holiday party, or be a part of a winter fun run. Instead, your elderly loved one may just want a little bit of one-on-one time with you or other family members. In this type of setting, you’ll be able to give your loved one your full, undivided attention, and you’ll both be able to truly enjoy one another’s company.
One of the most important things you can do to help your loved one is to truly listen to them. When you get together, whether by phone or in-person, ask your senior family member about how they’re doing. Let your older loved one share memories and stories of the past, as well as their hopes or concerns for the future. If you understand why your loved one may be feeling blue, you may be able to take the appropriate steps to help them feel better. Be open and empathetic, honor your loved one’s feelings, and show how much they mean to you, rather than just trying to get them to come around to your way of thinking.
Share a Meal
Food is one of the great connectors in this world. It brings together people from all different generations, and from all cultures and walks of life. Sharing a meal with family and friends is one of the great treasures of the holiday season, and it can be a great opportunity to connect with your aging loved one.
Even if you can’t be together on the holiday, try to get together to share a meal at least once during the season. This can be a great chance to connect – to help your loved one in the kitchen, to go through old recipes that your older relative loves, to teach a cooking technique or tradition to the younger generation. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of meal delivery services and grocery delivery services, particularly if you don’t live nearby. These services can be a great way to make sure your loved one has a fridge full of food during the entire holiday season. This can be a truly great comfort.
Even if you don’t live near your older relatives, there are still steps you can take to help make sure that their holidays are full of companionship and love. Here are a few ideas:
- Make time for a phone call, or a video call (if your loved one is technically savvy enough)
- Have a professional caregiver spend time with your loved one, and assist with housekeeping, meal prep, etc.
- Connect with other family members or neighbors to have them check in and spend time with your loved one, if you’re too far away to visit in person
- Hire a service to help decorate your loved one’s home for the holidays, or to prepare a special meal around the holidays
Make Sure There’s Always a Friendly Face
The holiday season can be a time of great joy, love, and togetherness, but it’s hard to deny that it can also be busy and stressful – for you and your elderly loved ones alike. One step that might help is to bring on the assistance of a professional in-home companion for your loved one.
During the holiday season, an in-home caregiver or companion can help in many different ways. They can assist your parent or loved one with activities of daily living throughout the entire winter season, and make sure that they’re always able to keep up with housekeeping, grooming, meal prep, and so on.
A companion can also help provide driving services, making sure your loved one is able to make it to meetings with family and friends, parties, or religious services. During family gatherings, a companion can help make sure that your elderly loved one has support, so that you can focus on many of the other aspects that go into hosting a successful holiday.
And, perhaps above all, with a companion, your elderly loved one always has a friendly face that they know and trust, who is able to swing by, share a meal, and engage in enjoyable conversation. Companions aren’t just caregivers, they’re friends, always ready to make your elderly loved one feel seen, heard, and supported.
About Companions for Seniors
Do you have an aging loved one who might benefit from some additional social time or support during the holiday seasons? Companions for Seniors can help.
We’re locally based in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs. Our mission is to help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support.
We offer personalized care plans for each of our clients, and our caregivers can assist with activities of daily living, housekeeping, driving services, and more. Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help you and your family shoulder some of the responsibility of caring for the senior in your life, during the holidays and all year long.
To get in touch, don’t hesitate to give us a call, or fill out our contact form available here.