The holiday season is rolling back around again — and while the kids in your household may be giddy with anticipation, the adults may be facing a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from excitement and joy, to stress and anxiety.
The same goes for seniors, who often find the holidays to be a particularly challenging time of year.
For many older adults, the holiday season can bring feelings of loneliness, isolation, and sadness. Around this time of the year, many common concerns are highlighted — like living far from family, not having anyone to share a special day with, and having to eat meals alone. For many seniors, the holidays often come with feelings of being cut off or excluded, left like they’re on the outside looking in.
What can family caregivers do to make sure that seniors are able to enjoy a winter that’s merry and bright? 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.
Loneliness and Seniors: Some Key Things to Know
Loneliness and social isolation are some of the biggest health concerns facing older adults, and the holiday season has a tendency to throw these concerns into sharp relief.
According to reporting from the AARP, roughly one in four people between the ages of 50 and 80 say that they “feel isolated from other people at least some of the time,” while one in three say that “they don’t have regular companionship.” Over time, feelings of isolation can lead to seniors becoming even more withdrawn, and experiencing mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Feelings of depression and loneliness may result in seniors not eating, sleeping, or staying up on their housekeeping. 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.
It’s also important to remember, however, that not every older adult will show the same “yellow flags” 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 that they do have on their calendar.
This holiday season, don’t wait to be invited in to reach out! Your senior loved one could benefit enormously from having the chance to spend time with family and friends. In fact, many different studies have shown that helping seniors stay socially engaged can help lower rates of chronic disease, dementia, and depression, and help increase longevity.
Bringing the Spirit of the Holidays to Your Senior Loved Ones
Taking a few simple, proactive steps this winter could make all the difference in helping your loved ones experience a happy, healthy holiday. Fortunately, this time of year is all about bringing people together in joyous celebration, and there are plenty of ways you can make sure your elderly loved ones feel supported and seen.
Here are a few festive, inclusive ideas for family caregivers to keep in mind this holiday season:
Find Ways to Include Your Senior Loved Ones In Family Celebrations
One important step you can take is to bring your loved one in for family celebrations. Take care to make sure that their needs are accommodated. In some cases, this may mean making some new holiday traditions. For instance, instead of a long walk, consider a drive around the community. Rather than going out to attend every holiday party and seasonal sale at the mall., you might consider making more time this season for in-home activities, like baking, listening to music, doing arts and crafts projects, or flipping through old photo albums with the whole family. Even a small family gathering may be just what it takes to make sure your loved one feels included and special.
Make Room for One-on-One Time
The holiday season hassles that most of us tend to take for granted can be physically and emotionally daunting for seniors. Your older loved one may not want or be able to take part in 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. Make sure you build in plenty of time this holiday season to give your loved one your full, undivided attention, so that you can communicate more easily and truly enjoy one another’s company.
Truly Listen, Whenever You Can
One of the most important things you can do to help your loved one is to truly listen to them, particularly during the holiday season. 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.
If you have a loved one with a condition that may make communication more difficult, take some steps ahead of time to prepare, so that you can make chatting and enjoying your time together as simple as possible. We have a few ideas on our blog for communicating with those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as well as seniors who may have some difficulty hearing.
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 fantastic opportunity to connect with your aging loved one.
Even if you can’t be together on the holiday itself, try to get together to share a meal at least once during the season. This can be a great chance to connect, as you help your loved one in the kitchen, go through old recipes, and even teach a cooking technique or tradition to the younger generations. Studies have shown that the benefits of sharing a meal can be enormous for seniors. In fact, this simple act can help encourage older adults to eat more, feel happier, and get more active, all year long.
Look for Opportunities to Connect Long-Distance
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 to consider:
- Make time for a phone call, or a video call (if your loved one is technically savvy enough, or has a caregiver who may be able to help out)
- Have a professional caregiver spend time with your loved one, and assist with housekeeping, meal prep, and so on
- 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
Make Sure There’s Always a Friendly Face
The holiday season can be a time of tremendous 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 senior 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 other important daily tasks.
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, a companion can help ensure that your elderly loved one always has a friendly face that they know and trust, who is able to swing by, share a meal, play games, and engage in enjoyable conversation. Companions aren’t just caregivers, they’re friends, who are 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 season? 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 those family caregivers who might need some support.
Our companions can assist with activities of daily living, help with housekeeping, provide driving services, and do so much more. We offer personalized care plans designed to 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.
Have any more questions? Ready to get in touch? We’d love to hear from you! To reach out, give us a call at 866-910-9020, or fill out our online contact form, available here.