Most of us start to feel some excitement listening to Christmas music, unpacking the tree, or planning a holiday gathering. But, especially for the elderly, loneliness can be very common during the holidays. Comparisons to past years, grieving losses experienced through the year, and struggles experienced by health issues or immobility are common triggers for loneliness, depression and isolation during the holidays.
Signs of holiday loneliness
The most important first step in helping address your loved one’s feelings of loneliness during the holidays is to recognize the red flags, such as:
- Changes in eating habits
- Lack of attention to personal care
- Lack of interest in things that once brought joy
- Isolation from friends and family members
- Lack of interest in social interaction
Tips to lessen loneliness during the holidays:
- Share your feelings: Take some time to listen and understand when your loved one wants to talk, even if the talk is negative or sad. He or she is likely mourning many of the losses experienced over the years and these seem to magnify over the holiday season. Remind the senior that he or she is loved and important to the family.
- Get out and enjoy the season: Look for ways to include your elder relative in preparing for the holiday by planning a festive holiday outing or gathering. Take a few hours to go out for holiday coffee, shop for a special gift, look at Christmas lights together, watch a holiday play or performance together, or visit a place of worship. All of these holiday-inspired moments can mean a great deal to someone who is feeling lonely or isolated.
- Prepare for the holidays: Include your loved one in as many holiday activities as possible. If there is a holiday ritual that was always important to your loved one, such as sending cards, baking cookies, wrapping gifts or making persimmon pudding, make sure you take the time to ensure your loved one can participate in this important part of the holiday. Make these moments’ enjoyable, sharing memories, putting on holiday music, dancing and involving the younger members of the family whenever possible.
- Encourage self-care: If you notice your loved one isn’t taking care of himself or herself, make sure you encourage healthy foods and exercise. It may be helpful to spend an evening with your loved one and get a bubble bath ready, or give the gift of a pedicure or back massage. Taking a brisk evening walk, a trip to the spa or a yoga lesson with your loved one may be just the thing to jump start self-care! Practice deep breathing with our loved one: breathe in what you need – peace, serenity, strength – and out what you don’t – pain, sadness, and loneliness.
- Bring the holidays to your loved one: If your loved one is unable to get out and enjoy the season for medical reasons, think of enjoyable ways to bring the spirit to him or her! Consider inviting your loved one’s friends for an impromptu holiday celebration, ask children from your church choir over to sing carols, and be sure to decorate your loved one’s home with holiday cheer!
- Spend time together: Remember that loneliness feeds on itself, so find ways to spend moments together. While it might sound simple, just spending some extra time with your loved one can make a huge difference during the holidays.
Most importantly, be sure to seek help when needed. While elderly loneliness may be common during the holidays, profound loneliness or depression is not. If you notice your loved one is having a significant struggle with depression and loneliness during the holidays, or at any other time, ask his or her physician for help.
And call on Nightingale Homecare’s compassionate Phoenix caregivers for additional companionship, encouragement to participate in favorite pastimes, help around the house, and more! We’re just a phone call away and here for you and your senior loved ones – throughout the holiday season and beyond.