Helping the Elderly this Christmas

Our Guidelines for Helping an Elderly Friend, Neighbour or Relative this Christmas 

Elderly person Christmas decorating

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:

How to Help the Elderly around the Festive Season

Reach Out

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.

Plan Ahead

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.

Involve Them 

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.

Make Memories

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.

Healthy choices

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.

Christmas Cards

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.

Plan Activities

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.

Keep Active

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: 

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:

Preventing Falls Among Older Adults

Preventing Falls Among Older Adults

The Reality

Each year, one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls and 2 million are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. And the risk of falling increases with each decade of life. The long-term consequences of fall injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can impact the health and independence of older adults. Thankfully, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, many falls can be prevented. Everyone can take actions to help in Preventing Falls Among Older Adults, with some simple steps you can protect the older adults you care about.

Prevention Tips

You can play a role in preventing falls. Encourage the older adults in your life to:

  • Get some exercise. Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs and this increases the chances of falling. Exercise programs such as Tai Chi can increase strength and improve balance, making falls much less likely.
  • Be mindful of medications. Some medicines—or combinations of medicines—can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness. This can make falling more likely. Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. Older adults should have their eyes checked every year and wear glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength to ensure they are seeing clearly.
  • Eliminate hazards at home. About half of all falls happen at home. A home safety check can help identify potential fall hazards that need to be removed or changed, such as tripping hazards, clutter, and poor lighting.

Steps for Home Safety

The following checklist can help older adults reduce their risk of falling at home:

  • Remove things you can trip over (such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
  • Install handrails and lights on all staircases.
  • Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
  • Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
  • Put grab bars inside and next to the tub or shower and next to your toilet.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
  • Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
  • Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.

Why Mindfulness can empower elderly people and those who care for the elderly

Why Mindfulness can empower Elderly People and those who care for the Elderly

Our minds….The element of a person that enables us to be aware of the world and our experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought, a person’s ability to think and reason; our intellect. One would think we should be mindful of this powerful tool..…shouldn’t we?

mindfulness4Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). In slightly simpler terms, mindfulness is “the ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and actions—in the present moment—without judging or criticising yourself or your experience.” (McKay, Wood & Brantley, 2007).

Digging deep into the practice of Mindfulness, it simply explores a single sense: taste, sight, sound, feel, and hearing. It moves on to explore a form of the sense, focus on the experience and the reactions to the experience, and process with discussions of the thoughts and memories that the experience arouses. The eventual goal is to join mind and body in acceptance of the moment.

Often elderly people can live uncomfortable, lonely, quiet lives. Teaching them to pay attention moment by moment, on purpose but without judgement, to each of their experiences, can improve of the quality of their lives, based on the demonstrated effectiveness of mindfulness techniques in many forms of therapy.

Mindfulness practice has a definite positive impact on issues such as recurrent depression, stress, anxiety, chronic physical pain and loneliness. For the elderly, chronic health conditions, the loss of self-determination in their daily lives, isolation, and a lack of interaction with the outside world can understandably take much of the joy out of life.

For elderly people, loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems-such aselderly meditation cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Mindfulness meditation training can be used as a novel approach for reducing loneliness and the risk of disease. Research suggests that mindfulness meditation training is a promising intervention for improving the health of older adults………so why not give it a try?

And let’s not forget our care-givers and practising mindful self-care for them. Many carers experience isolation and high levels of stress as a result of their caring responsibilities. Isolation is one of the prime factors in depression. Stress can also impact directly on both the physical and mental well-being of carers. Carers can become overwhelmed trying to balance work, family and care giving demands, often resulting in the neglect of their own well-being.

For carers, practising mindfulness works in equipping them with skills to use during their caring responsibilities which can lead to a wonderful partnership between both the person being cared for and the carer themselves helping them both foster relaxation, support and friendship.

So how can we introduce or reinforce the techniques of mindfulness with the elderly and those caring for them?

Here are some quick exercises to cultivate mindfulness in your life and support mindfulness practice in the life of a loved one such as a parent or grandparent.

  • Deep Breathing: As we age, our respiratory system can begin to break down. As our lives become more sedentary, we don’t use our lungs as much to expand and contract and the muscles that support our diaphragm get weaker. Deep breathing is critical for the elderly to keep their muscles strong, their lungs elastic and to keep things moving through their respiratory system. Try this for 3 minute each day and see how that feels. Just notice your breathing. Just notice that you are breathing in and out. Notice the in-breath and the out-breath. When thoughts come into your mind just return to your breathing. Do not get involved with them. Simply go back to noticing your breathing in and out.
  • Meditation: As we age, our focus shifts. We can start to worry about our death, illness, leaving our family and our finances. This can create tremendous anxiety. There is no better time to start or continue with a meditation practice. This can be done sitting in a chair, closing the eyes and simply bringing the attention to the breath. Incorporating meditation into every day can help you release theses anxieties.
  • Seated stretches: Yoga for anyone with limited mobility can be modified so that the person is seated in a chair. Moving the arms up and stretching towards the ceiling, placing hands on the sides and twisting from side to side and squeezing and releasing the hands are all simple movements that can relieve muscle tension and soothe stiff joints.
  • Being in the learning mode: Mindfulness comes from increasing your focus on one thing. This can be experienced in more than just meditation and yoga; you’ll find its part of simply learning something new. When we try new things, we feel alive, engaged and energised. These are all mindful qualities. For older people who have never tried yoga or meditation, an introduction to these techniques can reinforce to the elderly that learning always happens, regardless of age. It helps to create mindfulness triggers. Pick some everyday things that you do routinely. Decide that whenever you do them you will be mindful and will be aware that you are doing them. Examples are: using the telephone, going up or down stairs or steps, arranging your desk or other workspace, tidying, washing up, taking a shower.
  • Connection: Often, as people age, they lose control over different aspects of their lives. They may move into a nursing home. They may be on many medications. They may have to use a cane, walker or supplemental oxygen. They may feel like their body is not their own. Mindful techniques can help older adults feel a sense of connection to their body. This can be critical for creating optimal health, even as they manage the ongoing changes in their body.

So finally from me, one message I would like to give to you at this present moment is that life is most certainly a gift… so mind yourself, enjoy each moment and take your time unwrapping it.


Le gach dea-ghuí

Bláthnait Ní Mhurchú

National Homecare Manager –