The holidays are a special time of year for most of us, regardless of our beliefs. It’s a time that allows us to gather with family and friends, as well as celebrate an attitude of giving and gratitude. It’s also a time for great food!
The holidays can be a tricky time for our aging loved ones. But, the good news is, this is also an ideal opportunity to check in on them and give them additional love and support. Here are four ways to do that:
1) If you’re going to the home of an aging loved one, take the time to observe how they are going about their daily life:
- Look in the pantry and refrigerator to make sure they have healthy food to eat and enough of it.
- Make sure their furnace filter is clean or that the heating system is working well. Check for drafts from windows and doors and try to remedy them.
- Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and test them to ensure they are working properly.
- Look around for obstacles or hazards that could cause your loved one to fall.
- Make sure their outdoor pathways are well lit, shoveled and de-iced. Ensure that this is done even when you are not there.
- Look for signs of a health issue—declining vision and mobility, trouble chewing and swallowing, mental slip-ups, etc.
2) Don’t ignore signs of depression. You probably know that the stress of the holidays or sad memories from previous holidays can trigger depression in anyone. For our elderly loved ones, holiday depression can be particularly potent because they are also likely contending with limited mobility (increased by snowy weather) and maybe even feeling especially lonely:
- Make sure to include elderly loved ones in your holiday gatherings and outings when possible.
- Take time to just talk with them and connect on an emotional level.
- Work to limit any stress they might feel with holiday preparations. Help them run errands, clean, cook—do whatever they feel they really want and need to do for the holidays.
3) Honor their independence. We all know that our sense of independence is threatened as we age—but that doesn’t mean we need to lie down and accept it. On the contrary, working to remain independent for as long as possible has numerous benefits for the elderly. Check in with them and address concerns about safety. Also, make sure they feel adequately supported and have enough people around them to prevent them from feeling solely dependent on one or two individuals.
4) Make new memories, but keep the old. Holidays often stir up fond memories in every family. Take the time to share those memories and talk about why they are important to you. Not only does this help you to deepen your bonds, it also can help our elderly loved ones maintain their sense of value in the family. To build on these old memories, make new memories. Take a family stroll to look at the lights in the neighborhood. Go see a holiday production. Think about what kinds of activities your elder loves and make a point of doing those together.
The holidays are truly a wonderful time, may you enjoy them with your elderly loved ones!