Listen - Actively listening can lift their spirits, even if it is a negative topic. Honest and empathetic conversation helps them process things that could be bothering them, whether they are coming to terms with new challenges or mourning a loss.
Show Love - Remind them how important they are as a part of your life. Feeling like a burden is common if they do not feel as though they contribute or fully participate like they used to. Encourage them to do what they are capable of now, and be especially careful not to act like what you do for them is a chore.
Tradition – Connecting with life-long friends with seasonal Christmas cards is an important tradition for their era. Help them experience their traditions, and remember to be gentle with your loved one, over the years holiday cards often bring bad news and diminish in quantity. You can help ease loneliness by asking friends and family to contribute by sending them a card; seasonal pictures and notes always make it more rewarding.
Religion – Check with religious organizations who offer social or spiritual support. You can never go wrong with more socializing at this stage. Many churches can arrange for a leader to visit the senior in their home or residential setting. It is good for their emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing.
Decorate – Adding festive touches can brighten their home or rooms in a long-term residence. Be certain it does not present a tripping hazard (no extension cords strung around the rooms) Many seniors enjoy reflecting on their past holidays as they unpack their cherished decorations, usually with stories about their special items. Make their dinner table festive, add a holiday centre piece or a little ribbon with bells on their walker, anything to contribute to lifting their spirits.
Cooking – Baking and preparing traditional goods, treats and dishes WITH your loved one is especially rewarding for seniors and family alike. No matter what capacity they can participate at, the emotions surrounding the activity is priceless. Favourite foods trigger memories to share and warm the heart.
Parties – Call your loved ones friends and see if they would be able to come to a small holiday gathering. At your home, the senior’s home or use a conference room in their retirement residence. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to mean something, realizing people came to spend time with them is priceless. For those with dementia; be wary of large groups or noisy groups as this tends to be disorientating, and overwhelming for them.
Younger Generation – Don’t overlook interactions with the younger generations. New activities and visits from children or grandchildren can be very uplifting for a senior who experiences emotional or physical pain. If possible take them to out to events, concerts, or games especially if they include a younger family member.
Holidays are often filled with feelings of loneliness, the best you can offer is your time together. Regardless of what you decide to do, your best efforts are good enough!
Special note to families with strained relations: forgiveness doesn’t mean what was done is ok. It means you choose to not let it affect you negatively anymore. Make today the day you pick up the phone and talk to your Mom or Dad about what the future holds. You can lead the way on this, whether you have siblings or not, someone has to do it and it might as well be you!
Find the will to use patience. Improving your communication is a process not a one-shot deal. Being patient with a difficult person is a challenge no matter who it is. When it’s your parent, old emotions and family dynamics can derail any well intended talk. Be more forgiving, you will be thankful that you did.