The holidays can bring a mixed-bag of emotions for any of us, but they can be especially bitter-sweet for the elderly. Memories of times-gone-by are often layered with sadness and loneliness because so many of the individuals present in those memories are no longer alive or live far away.
Tips For Preventing Seniors Holiday Season Loneliness
One of the greatest gifts you can give your senior loved-ones this time of year is the gift of attention. There are all kinds of ways – both big and small – that you can make a difference and minimize elderly loneliness during the holidays.
- Help to plan their social calendar. There are myriad of free and very low-cost events taking place around the holiday season – yet many seniors are cut off from them because they no longer drive, or perhaps they don’t like to drive at night, when many of these activities take place. Look online and search for holiday events where your loved one lives. If you can’t take them yourself, consider enlisting the help of other friends or relatives who can volunteer a few hours to help. Many local senior centers and communities offer low-cost shuttling services. You can also use a companion service, hiring professional caregivers to transport them to and from the event, keep them company while they’re attending and ensure they’re comfortable.
- Make contact more often. Since this time of year is known to exacerbate senior stress, loneliness and depression, this is a good time to add another day of the week to visit or call. If you typically stop by on Sundays, maybe you could add a Wednesday dinner or special dessert to the mix. Or, if you call every Saturday morning, try calling again on Monday or Tuesday to check in. The added attention and connection can do wonders.
- Be present to their grief. Your grandmother isn’t the only one mourning the loss of your grandfather. Odds are you, your mother or father and the children miss him too. Sometimes, seniors feel guilty sharing their grief or sadness – especially if the loss is many years ago, because they want this to be a happy time of year for you. However, if you open the topic up for conversation, saying something like, “You know, this time of year is so special – but it also brings up so many memories of grandpa (or dad, or Uncle Bill) that I feel sad, too. I really miss him.” This can open doors of communication, allowing the senior to express her feelings of grief and loneliness. It’s a special opportunity for you both.
- Fly them to see you. Does your elderly loved one live far away? Perhaps you can look online and fly them out for a visit – if not on the actual holiday, maybe for a long weekend before or after. The whole family may be willing to go in on the cost. If traveling is difficult, hiring a temporary caregiver from a licensed home healthcare agency can ensure your loved one travels safely and comfortably on both legs of the journey.
- Surprise them with packages. A gift basket is nice, but what if you sent them little cards or packages for the 12 Days of Christmas, or honoring the 8 days of Hanukkah. Receiving one small gift or a card in the mail each day gives your loved one something to look forward to – not to mention the love and appreciation of receiving such a fun and heartfelt surprise.
- Reach out to local music groups. Is there a local music group in your area that carols or volunteers to sing at senior centers? They or a small group of them may be more than willing to reach out to your loved one’s senior community – or maybe even make a special visit to their home – to play and sing favorite holiday tunes.
- Send them their favorite meals. Can’t visit and can’t fly them out? Make sure they eat some of their favorite foods and treats over the holiday season. Companies like magickitchen.com offer delicious, home-cooked meals that are flash frozen and delivered to the senior’s doorstep. They include desserts and when all’s said and done, each meal is less than $20. They also cater to special dietary needs.
Read How to Help a Client or Loved One Avoid the Holiday Blues for additional tips on adding holiday cheer to those who need it.