This time of year most people are exploding with joy, love, laughter and cheer. The holidays are a time to be thankful and embrace our loved ones. It is a time for celebrations, family and rest, if you can sneak that in. However, this may not be the case for our elders. For some elders holidays can mean something totally different.
There are many reasons why seniors may not view the holidays as a time of celebration. For an elder the holidays may bring memories of loved ones who have passed, their distance from loved ones and the inability to take part in many joyous holiday events. Neighborhoods change, often leaving those who are well enough to remain in their own homes feeling friendless and isolated. Many of these losses are emotional and social in nature.
As a caregiver who is around an elder who suffers from sadness, loneliness or depression during the holidays, there is much you can do to help. For starters, simplify the holiday season! Forget about the hustle and bustle and focus on what really matters- people. By doing this, you can offer your love and support through what can be, for some, a time of discouragement.
It’s so important to listen and understand when they want to talk, even if it isn’t always positive. They are likely mourning and reminiscing about some or all of the losses mentioned above. This is where empathy is utterly important. Try to put yourself into their place. Spend time reminding them of how important they are as part of your own celebrations. Remind them that they are loved and an important part of society and our culture.
Another fun way to help your elders stay connected during the holidays is to help them send greeting cards. My mother has always been a very busy, hardworking individual who never really found the time for herself, but always managed to make the time to sit and write something short and sweet to family members and friends during the holidays. It is a tradition I plan on keeping alive and enjoy helping others do this when I can. It’s an excellent way to help elders keep connections with family life-long friends.
If your loved one lives alone, or in an assisted living home make sure that you bring the holidays to them as well. Help them put up a small tree with decorations, or a few lights. If they are living at home with you then encourage them to pick out decorations and themes. Keep them involved! Spend quality time preparing baked goods that they can give away to good friends and family. Spend time reminiscing with them. Pull out holiday photo albums or videos and let them share their stories. Leave these items handy so that they can walk down memory lane when they are alone.
Even though the holidays can be a very stressful time for everyone, take the time to ensure that the elders in your life are a part of the celebrations so that they can also feel that special feeling we all want to experience during the holidays. Your time is precious. You likely have a spouse, children and others who need you. However, time, love and support are the most valuable gifts you can give during the holidays. Not just to our elders, but to everyone.