The Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier every year. Many people love this time of year and revel in the early decorating and extension of the season. However, despite the magic and excitement that accompanies this festive time of year, the holiday season can be a sad and stressful time for many people.
The holidays can bring depression and feelings of isolation to many people, but particularly to the elderly population. The earlier the season starts, the longer these feelings of sadness are extended for people who feel a profound sense of loss during the holidays. For older Americans, this can be for many reasons. Usually these feelings exist because they have lost beloved spouses or their family may not live nearby. Long-held traditions have fallen to the wayside, and this can be very sad and difficult to bear.
Seniors living alone are more vulnerable to depression and feelings of isolation. Those living in nursing homes like Heritage Health, or other senior living communities, are surrounded by a caregiving team and other seniors who provide a sense of community. This companionship can help them feel less isolated, however they still can be susceptible to depression even when surrounded by others.
How can you help an elderly loved one, friend or neighbor feel less blue during the holiday rush?
1. Talk to them!
It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. Everyone is running from store-to-store, preparing food and attending holiday parties. Slow down, and take a little time out of your day to sit and talk with someone. An older neighbor, especially if they live alone, will appreciate the opportunity to feel included in the holiday season. Ask them about their family's traditions. Request to see old family photos. These opportunities to bring their holiday memories back to life.
2. Include them in a holiday event.
Even something as simple as taking a drive to look at Christmas lights will make someone feel included and like they are part of the holiday season. Cookie exchanges, a holiday movie or just a drive through town will make a huge difference.
3. Make your visits regular.
The holiday season is no stranger to charitable giving. This time of year, everyone is laser-focused on supporting a variety of organizations. But once the holidays are finished, we often forget about these needy groups as we are absorbed back into our regular routine.
If your schedule is too busy for a large time commitment, consider even just a quick five minute phone call or visit to let your elderly friend know you are thinking about them. Knowing they are in your thoughts will make them feel more connected to the larger community.
It is important to remember that the holiday blues can morph into the winter blahs once the holiday excitement is done. The weather is cold and venturing outside is unappealing. Once the busyness of the season slows down, we often want to hunker down and relax. Keep in mind this can be an easy time for a senior to feel forgotten. Continuing your efforts to keep them feeling included and cared for.
You can keep the holiday season alive all year by volunteering. Whether it is with a neighbor, family friend or someone you don't know, commit yourself to volunteering with on a weekly or monthly basis. Seeing a familiar, caring face on a regular basis gives people hope and excitement that your friendship will continue after the trees are down and the Christmas lights turned off. There are opportunities in every community to make a difference in a senior's life. Visit the Heritage Health website to find a facility near you, or talk to your local chamber of commerce.