For many, the holiday season is a special time to gather with friends and family. Unfortunately, it can also be a lonely or isolating season for older adults who live alone or far away from family and friends. Studies show that loneliness and isolation is a serious issue for seniors as it increases the risk of heart disease, depression, sleep problems, stroke, dementia and overall quality of life.
Around the winter season, it is important for family caregivers to take steps to create a meaningful holiday experience for their senior loved ones. Here are five simple ways you can stay connected with older parents and loved ones during the holidays.
Make communication a priority.
It’s not always possible to gather in person during the holidays, especially if you live far away from your aging parent or loved one. Thanks to technology, however, you can still create special memories and stay connected during the holiday season. Schedule regular phone calls or video chats as an easy way to stay in touch while helping your loved one feel remembered and special from afar—and remind other family members to do the same!
Another way to help an out-of-town senior feel cared for is to send a gift or package in the mail. Include their favorite treats, a cozy blanket, books or a handwritten letter from grandkids to boost their holiday spirits.
Include them in celebrations.
If your loved one lives close by, take the time to involve them in holiday planning and preparation. For example, a grandmother who once hosted family celebrations may have a hard time surrendering her responsibilities. Help her feel like a central figure in the festivities by inviting her to help you with table settings, meal preparation and decorating.
Share a meal.
Food has a powerful way of bringing people together and can be a great way to connect with your aging loved one. Share a meal at your favorite restaurant or spend time in the kitchen cooking your favorite holiday dish as an easy way to bond and spend quality time together.
Whether your loved one is aging at home or residing in a senior living community, make time to visit them during the holiday season. This is especially important if they can no longer get around on their own. Consider bringing a gift or their favorite holiday cookie to enjoy. Have their grandchildren and other important family members visit as well as a great way to help them feel loved and included. If your loved one resides in a senior living community, check out their calendar of events, as many communities feature special activities and programs during the holiday season that families can join.
Look into assisted living communities.
Lastly, for many families, the holidays are a great time to consider assisted living for the older adults in their lives. As you spend time together, look for signs that indicate they may need more assistance such as:
- Declining health or significant weight loss
- Difficulty managing activities of daily living like dressing, showering and eating
- Dramatic changes in mood or behaviors
A senior in assisted living may not require 24/7 care, but they might need help with certain tasks, like housekeeping, bathing and using the toilet. Assisted living caregivers help handle these activities of daily living for residents, letting seniors focus on the things they love while maintaining as much independence as possible.
Senior Solutions manages over 25 of the leading independent and assisted living communities across the southern United States. With so many locations, there is bound to be one near you. Visit our communities page and schedule a tour for more information.
Communication and connection are important all year round. As you step into this holiday season, however, think of ways you can be more intentional about the time you dedicate to the senior loved ones in your life. Including them as much as possible in your celebrations can go a long way to reduce their feelings of loneliness and create meaningful memories during this special time of year.