While on a recent trip to visit relatives in New Jersey, I was reminded of how magical and wondrous the winter season can be No matter how dreary and cold the weather outside was that week, love, extended family and warm holiday celebrations filled the house. We were thrilled for the opportunity to create new memories. I wish everyone was lucky enough to share holiday joy with loved ones, but unfortunately that seems not to be the case.
The sad truth is that while many of us are busy partying, buying gifts, decorating our homes and offices and cooking traditional foods, others may find December to be a time of solitude and depression. Elderly people who live alone are particularly vulnerable, particularly those who are homebound and may not have a support system in place. Individuals may be alone for the holidays for what could be their first or their twenty-first time; the first year may be the hardest, but each year can be painful. They may miss their loved ones who passed away and feel their own sense of mortality. I try to be mindful that the holiday season is immensely difficult for some and that a small investment in time and effort can go a long way toward helping those who feel forgotten through the holidays.
We know depression in the elderly is a serious problem. According to suicide.org, about one third of seniors age 65 or older experience depression. One third! Loneliness is a major contributing factor. Below are some suggestions from Laurie Miller, owner of AppleCare & Companion and eldercare expert, to help elderly loved ones experience a more joyous holiday season.
For loved ones who live out of town and have no family nearby:
*If travel is possible, make a short in-person visit.
*Make frequent, but brief, telephone or video calls.
*Old school snail mail can be heartwarming. Cards, handwritten letters, kid’s art, year end family updates and printed family snapshots are appreciated more than you know.
*Print and send a beloved photo to let your loved ones know you are thinking of them. Free, easy to use smartphone apps enable cell phone photos to be sent to CVS or Walmart for printing in an instant. Same Day Prints. is a good choice for this type of app.
*Ship home baked goods made from old family recipes. Who wouldn’t love receiving a delicious meaningful delivery? (Make sure the goodies are allowed on their diet if they have restrictions before sending.)
*Check with local churches, synagogues, and senior centers to find programs that coordinate visits from volunteers. Some community organizations partner with Senior Corps, a national program that organizes volunteer visits.
For local loved ones who can’t leave their home or facility:
*All the above-mentioned ideas are great for homebound folks.
*Brighten their space with holiday decorations.
*Cook/bake old family recipes in their kitchen if your loved one lives at home. The aromas might bring back happy memories.
*If living in a facility, bring an abundance of baked goods to share with other residents and staff. Encourage your loved one to talk about the family traditions associated with the foods.
*Consider organizing a small festive gathering at their place. Create a simple, yet special, occasion with some family and friends.
For loved ones who are fairly independent but are alone:
*Remember that many of our elderly loved ones are reluctant to ask for help. They may need some extra attention during the holiday season even if they have professional caregivers.
*Present your “help” as a chance to visit to avoid unintentionally embarrassing your loved one.
*Offer assistance with shopping, wrapping and mailing presents.
*Help make a favorite holiday recipe with your loved one.
*Put up and take down decorations.
*Provide transportation to a party or event
*Carry plates full of food from buffet to table as doing so may be difficult for them.
*If your loved one has a caregiver, ask if they would like them to be included in a gathering.
Hopefully, you can help your loved one feel the joy and love this season brings. Perhaps you can create new memories and new traditions that can be meaningful to your loved one. A small investment of time on your part means more than you know to a lonely senior!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Laurie Miller is the owner of Apple Care & Companion, an outstanding non-medical homecare business located in Dallas, Texas. Reviews of Apple Care & Companion consistently rave about the outstanding service and caring, supportive and kind caregivers. Contact Laurie at email@example.com