Helping Older Adults with the Holiday Blues
Although the lights are shining and festive music fills the air, the holiday season isn’t always the easiest time for everyone. Older adults can struggle with feelings of isolation and are often hesitant to share these emotions. With some compassion and kindness, there are ways to help aging loved ones to feel included and lessen a sense of feeling isolated.
Understanding why this time of year can cause a sense of loneliness is essential to help a loved one feel better. The holiday blues may be more common than you imagine. According to a pre-pandemic survey from AARP, 31% of people polled say that they have felt a sense of holiday loneliness at some point in the last five years and 41% in the study reported worrying about a family member or friend feeling lonesome.
It is easy to see how isolation can impact older adults by exploring the reasons that can cause holiday malaise, including:
- Physical limitations and health challenges can make an older adult feel isolated. Chronic conditions or a change in health can put a damper on someone participating in holiday activities. He or she may not feel up to holiday fun, with less stamina to travel or decorate. Worry about the future can also be isolating.
- Family is at a distance. With the focus on spending quality time with family during the holiday season, older adults may withdraw from regular social activities as their adult children grow up, close friends and neighbors move and their social circle feels much smaller than it did decades ago.
- Change can feel uncomfortable. An older adult has fond memories of traditions and joyous holidays of the past. Reflecting on these can bring happiness as well as a sense of loss when remembering people who are not here for the holidays. Having less energy to decorate as one may have in the past can squash the holiday spirit.
- Weather concerns impact sociability. Especially in climates where the winters are harsh, aging loved ones may be hesitant to venture out to participate in the activities they normally enjoy. Fearing a fall on slippery sidewalks or having a car accident is a powerful motivation to keep seniors at home.
Loneliness has a link to increased anxiety and depression. Social isolation takes a toll emotionally but also physically. Social isolation may be as dangerous to a person’s health as obesity, smoking and lack of exercise. A lack of social relationships is linked to a 29% higher risk of heart disease and up to a 32% increased risk of stroke.
If you are concerned about a loved one who may be feeling blue this holiday season, there are ways to make the holiday season brighter by bolstering social connections and engagement for the festivities:
Encourage an honest and open conversation with your loved one. He or she may not want to burden you with their feelings of sadness during the holiday merriment. Give them a safe space for discussion about their feelings without judgment. Providing a friendly ear to listen can be more valuable than acting as a problem solver.
Incorporate traditions that are important to them. Ask the important questions, listen actively to the holiday traditions that bring them joy and make a plan to include these special gems into the holiday season. The smiles of feeling remembered and honored will brighten your holidays!
Give them the gift of your time. Though you may have lots on your plate, know that making an effort to spend time with an aging loved one can elevate their spirits. Whether in person, by phone or video chat, put these visits on your calendar and encourage family members to do the same.
CarePatrol has a passion for helping families and older adults to find peace of mind. We have been finding the best senior care solutions for over three decades. Reach out today to learn more about our discovery process. You’ll never feel alone in finding senior care when CarePatrol is on your side.