Our Guidelines for Helping an Elderly Friend, Neighbour or Relative this Christmas
Tackling Loneliness among the Elderly at Christmas
Christmas is about love and joy and spending time with family and friends but it can be extremely difficult for elderly people as it can remind them about the loss of loved ones or their decline in health. Elderly people have an increased risk of suffering from depression and around the festive season depression and suicide heighten. Depression affects around 15-20% of people aged 65 and over.
Around 60% of elderly people in Ireland aged 80 and over live alone. Help the elderly people in your life this Christmas and avoid them becoming lonely and depressed. Loneliness can have an impact on the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people.
If you know of an elderly person invite them for a meal or ask them if they would like help with food shopping, make them feel connected at this time of year. See here previous blog about Loneliness and the elderly: https://myhomecare.ie/age-friendly-advice/tackling-loneliness-among-elderly/
How to Help the Elderly around the Festive Season
If you have an elderly relative, neighbour or friend that lives alone make sure to check in on them and see if they are OK. Take them to visit family members, call in to help them light the fire. Reaching out to a senior with small gestures, you would be surprised at just how much it could mean to them.
If you are a carer by occupation, invite your friends and family or the friends and family of the person that you are caring for around. Make sure to plan this in advance as people can have a busy schedule around Christmas. This will keep their morale high and also give you a sense of satisfaction for spreading the festive cheer. Organise a Christmas game, Christmas caroling, tea and mince pies or ask the senior what they would like to do.
Get them involved. It is important that seniors feel a part of the holidays. Elderly people love to feel that they are useful and don't want to feel like a burden. Ask them to help with things such as meal preparations like the Christmas Pudding, picking Christmas cards or helping to decorate the house. Be aware of what they can do and encourage them to do what they are capable of.
Memories and old traditions can be painful for older people. Create new memories and traditions and make them feel present this Christmas to take their mind off the past. Make a dish that they would have normally made, use different ingredients if desired. Bring them to mass on Christmas Eve and invite family, take them for a drive to look at all the Christmas lights.
Respect their routines
If an elderly person is used to eating meals and going to bed at certain hours try and respect this and do your best to accommodate them. Staying up later than what they are used to or eating at later times results in tiredness and hunger which is unsettling to anyone not just older people.
Take the time to listen to an older person that feels like they need to reminisce about days gone by, deceased loved ones, childhood memories and Christmas memories or traditions that have passed. At social gatherings, encourage them to talk about their stories, elderly people love to share of days gone by and young people love hearing about what it was like 'in my day'.
Ask for help
If you don't ask you won't receive. It is foolish to think that you can do everything yourself. To care for someone else you must care for yourself too. Ask friends or family to help out with what you know they are good at or enjoy. If someone enjoys shopping ask them to bring out the elderly person and help them with seasonal gifts, suggest they do some online shopping together if mobility is low. Get young grandchildren to call and keep them busy with games etc.
Senior citizens especially, need to drink plenty of water to avoid the risk of dehydration. At Christmas, everyone tends to indulge when it comes to food. If you are serving a big dinner, consider making a light breakfast/lunch as you don't want the elderly person to be sick. Drinking alcohol with certain types of medication can have side effects, make sure to be wary of this.
Buying Christmas presents can be a struggle for elderly people as they have a fixed income. Suggest a Family Kris Kringle so that they are not stressed about money and having to buy presents for everyone.
Sending Christmas cards can be a difficult task for elderly people as they might not remember addresses, they might have arthritis and can't hold a pen or their sight might be poorly. Offer to write and send Christmas cards for an older person this Christmas.
Be careful with outside lights and interior decorations. Keep in mind any obstacles which may cause an injury to an elderly person in your home.
Icy conditions can result in elderly people having falls which can have serious physical impact and health implications. Make sure to salt their drive or pour hot water on their footpath or steps.
As a person ages, energy and mobility decreases. A full day out walking around streets and shopping centres is not realistic. Try some online shopping, watch Christmas cookery shows and attempt to make the meals, watch old Christmas movies or organise a Christmas tea party for them. If they wish to go around the shops, make sure a wheelchair is accessible.
Exercise is important all year round and Christmas shouldn't be any different. Bring an elderly person to an outdoor market, walk around a shopping centre to do some window shopping, go for a walk in the park. This is not only good for their physical health but also for their mental and social well-being.
Avoid Cold and Flu
See here previous blog about avoiding colds and flu this winter: https://myhomecare.ie/health-nutrition-advice/avoid-colds-and-flu/
If you would like to get involved in a charitable organisation for elderly people and offer your time and friendship, why not try Friends of the Elderly Ireland. Our previous trip with members of Friends of the Elderly: https://myhomecare.ie/advice-for-older-people/myhomecare-proudly-sponsoring-friends-of-the-elderly/