It’s no secret that Christmas can be hard. Advertisements continuously tell us that this is the time of year to be with the ones we care for. It’s no wonder that people who are socially isolated often find themselves grappling with holiday depression.
For many older adults, this time of year can be especially difficult. The holidays may bring on grief over lost friends and loved ones. Seniors may begin to feel like a burden as their relatives try to fit them into existing plans. These feelings are often worst for those who live alone.
Unfortunately, even older adults with caring family members can find themselves struggling. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help your elderly parent. In this post, we’ll look at three ways you can make the holidays less lonely for your loved one.
1) Connect face-to-face
Visiting your elderly parent is the surest way to show you care. Of course, including your mom or dad in important holiday events—such as Christmas dinner—can mean a lot. But if this is the only engagement you have with your loved one over the holidays, it’s possible that she’ll see the invitation as an obligation on your part.
Dropping in to visit at other times around the holidays can convey how much you enjoy the company of your elderly parent. Try to discuss more than just the logistics of your Christmas plans. Revisiting the positive holiday memories you share can help forge a more meaningful connection.
But what happens if you can’t be there in person? According to a recent statistic, 1 in 5 caregivers live at least an hour away from her or his assisted parent.
Holiday cards and letters are nice, but they can seem impersonal when they’re coming from a close relative. Phone calls are far more personal, but they too have their limitations. Hearing a loved one’s voice isn’t always enough to bridge large geographic distances.
Video calls allow your elderly parent to see your smiling face. As a result, they enable you to establish a closer connection. If you’re worried that your mom or dad will have difficulty making and receiving calls, don’t. Recent videoconferencing technology is easy to use—even for those with mobility difficulties, cognitive issues, and few (or no) technical skills.
Look for an app with touchscreen capabilities and clear, intuitive visuals.
2) Make them feel included
For most of us, the holidays come with at least a few new stressors. And figuring out how best to get your family members together may be one of them.
According to a recent study, 15% of caregivers stress about how to include a parent with health issues in holiday celebrations. If you fall into this category, try not to let it show. Many older adults struggle with the idea that they’re a burden to others. Conversations that focus heavily on logistical challenges are likely to make these feelings worse.
To make your elderly parent feel included, consider asking her or him for suggestions that will improve the festivities. Maybe your mom used to make a fantastic pumpkin pie, and you’d like the recipe. Perhaps your dad used to hand out the gifts on Christmas morning, and you’d like to keep that tradition alive.
These types of conversations can help ensure that your loved one feels not just welcome, but valued. Leading up to Christmas celebrations, making a video call to discuss the fun that’s to come is sure reinforce this feeling.
3) Involve the whole family
Chances are, it’s not just you who your elderly parent wants to connect with. Hearing from your siblings and talking with your children (as well as other family members) can mean a lot.
Consider encouraging other relatives to reach out over the holidays. Hectic schedules make it all too easy to assume that those who aren’t asking for our attention don’t need it. Of course, this often isn’t the case.
Frequently, the lonely suffer in silence. This can be especially true for older adults, many of whom don’t want to feel as though they’re bothering the ones they love.
Unfortunately, failing to connect regularly with others can have serious consequences. Loneliness and depression are major issues. And statistics show that socially-isolated seniors have a 4 to 5 times greater likelihood of hospitalization.
Remind your adult relatives how much they can brighten your elderly parent’s life this holiday season. If you have kids, try to schedule phone calls to your parent—or better yet, video calls—for times when they’ll be around. For your mom or dad, it could mean the world.