With many social gatherings, the festive season is often a time of celebration and cheer; but it can also become an isolating time for seniors – especially those who live alone or further away. The disruption of everyone’s normal schedules may mean less frequent visits and phone calls, and hectic planning and events can potentially cause us to forget to check in with our loved ones. It’s natural to miss a phone call or visit here and there, but it’s important to make sure that seniors have the support and resources they need to stay healthy and protected over the holidays.
During the colder months, your senior loved one may not be able to travel as much, attend regular community events, or be as willing to keep up with their health routine. Many seniors become stressed or lonely over the holidays and are unable or unwilling to communicate their needs, particularly if they feel they may be a burden.
This is the time to step up and let the seniors in your life know that you’re there for them and that they have options! While some seniors do not want to travel far or participate in holiday activities, keeping a line of communication open for them to express their wants and needs is the first step to ensuring that they feel heard and loved.
Whether you’re planning to visit your senior loved one for the holidays or there are other arrangements in place to celebrate with them, here are some key tips to support their health:
- Offer healthy meals and snacks. Whether you’re planning a feast or bringing your loved one baked goods or treats, keep the tendency to overindulge in check. In addition to holiday goodies make sure to offer healthy options like fresh fruit or a favorite vegetable dish.
- Check in on medications. It may seem like something that goes without saying, but with holiday changes seniors can forget to take their medication or leave their pills at home when traveling. Check in with them before they leave and during your visits to ensure that they are taking the prescribed amount and at the right time.
- Keep well hydrated. With drier air indoors at this time of year, it’s important for seniors to keep drinking water to stay hydrated. If they usually enjoy juice, coffee and tea, or alcoholic beverages, ensure that fresh water is available and encouraged to balance their intake of sugar and caffeine.
- Maintain exercise programs or physical activity. If you can join in with your senior loved one on their exercise routine or going for walks, try to make it a family or group endeavour. When it’s too cold to go outside, head to the local mall or community center together if possible. If you’re visiting a residence, participate in the fun of a scheduled group activity. Show your loved one that keeping up with exercise is important to you, too.
- Do a safety check. If your senior loved one has any challenges with mobility and is visiting your home, check for hazards that could potentially cause them to trip or otherwise have difficulty navigating your space:
- Ensure that mats and rugs are taped down
- Keep paths and steps clear
- Brighten up dimly lit areas where possible to help them see better
- Provide support where needed to get from room to room, particularly the bathroom.
For seniors who live alone or in a residence, now is also a good time to check in on whether they could use any stability aids in their living space or additional assistance a few times a week.
- Show them they are loved and needed. This might seem obvious but simply including loved ones in your plans, inviting them to events (even if you don’t think they’ll say yes), and taking the time to connect with them on the phone or through video chat (which is especially helpful if they live further away) can help battle depression. Spending quality time with a senior loved one and listening to them, watching television together, or driving around to see Christmas lights is a wonderful way to bond, recount old memories and create new ones together while making them feel safe and cherished.
How do you ensure that your loved ones are taken care of during the holidays? We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips for others!