The holidays can be a stressful time for all of us – from hosting the entire family to spending your first Christmas without a loved one. For many older adults, the holidays can be even more stressful depending on their mental, physical and emotional needs. Some may even experience the holiday blues – feelings of sadness brought on by activities and memories of the holiday season. If you’re concerned your loved one may be experiencing more than the holiday blues, but ongoing depression, please consult their doctor.
This holiday season, take time to remember your elderly loved ones and help them enjoy the holidays with these five tips.
- Spend time with your elderly loved ones. Spending time with your loved ones is the most important thing you can do. Reach out to older relatives and friends who are alone. It is difficult for anyone to be alone, especially during the holidays. Plan a special activity or simply schedule time to chat over coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
- Ask if they need help with sending holiday cards. If your elderly loved one has always sent holiday cards or letters, offer to help them compile their distribution list, address envelopes, buy stamps, make copies, or mail the cards. The simple act of sending a holiday card or letter may be an important part in helping them keep in touch with old friends. They’ll enjoy having your help, and you’ll learn more about family friends and acquaintances.
- Help them decorate for the holidays. Decorating for the holidays takes planning, time and energy for anyone. If decorating has always been important to your elderly loved one, offer to help them decorate. Familiar decorations are important to memories and creating a homelike atmosphere. Ask them what their favorite holiday music is, and bring it along to listen to while you decorate to set a festive mood.
- Be considerate of their health and time. Keep in mind that some older people tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation. Know the environment they’ll be in, such as is the holiday event outdoors or are there any tripping hazards? If attending a holiday concert, do you need access to handicap or assisted-listening seating? At family gatherings, the noise can lead to irritability or exhaustion for some older people, so make arrangements in advance to take them home or room for a nap if they become tired. Be observant of their countenance during activities. Also, you can offer to shop for and wrap gifts they want to give to friends and family.
- Host a holiday meal at your home or offer to cook at their home. Invite the elderly to a holiday meal at your home, or if they prefer to host the holidays at their home, offer to clean and cook to help them out. When you’re meal planning, think of dishes you know they’ll enjoy. Even ask them in advance of the meal if there’s one dish you could make that would make them feel at home for the holidays. Also, know what medications your loved one is on and if they’re able to drink any alcoholic drinks.