The holidays are an emotional time that is usually associated with family, from the time we’re kids anticipating all the colorfully wrapped presents we’re going to get to our adult lives, making the magic happen for our own kids. For some seniors who have lost a spouse or close friend or may not live close to their families, however, the holidays can seem to point a magnifying glass at the sadness and isolation they are experiencing.
Whether you are a senior going through a rough patch during the holiday season, or you’re providing care for a senior loved one who is experiencing depression or anxiety, there are a few steps you can take to ease the negative emotions. However, the first and most important step is recognizing the not-so-obvious signs of depression – worsening aches and pains, loss of appetite, unexpected weight loss, difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol consumption.
If you feel a loved one in your care is experiencing depression around this time of year, try some of these steps:
Focus on being a companion. Sometimes this takes a shift in your mindset to one of complete generosity. Seniors often feel isolated, depending on their circumstances, so simply spending time with a family member fills them with a lot of joy. Be that needed companion for a while and stay fully present while you’re with them. In fact, tap into that inner curiosity you have deep inside you and ask questions about the stories they’re sharing with you.
Be Santa’s helper. Everyone loves to have a clean, organized home that’s festively decorated for the holidays. As we age, however, it gets more and more difficult to do that kind of work, especially the outdoor tasks. So, think about volunteering a weekend to help with picking up around the house, moving things that could cause a tripping hazard, vacuuming, and other needs. Then unpack the holiday decorations and start getting creative. You can also help with wrapping presents and addressing envelopes for greeting cards.
Go into celebrity chef mode. Find out ahead of time what their favorite holiday meal is and make a day out of preparing it and enjoying it with them. It’s a good idea to go online and track down the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients before you get started. Then, invite them to help you cook so it can be a shared experience. And feel free to make enough that they have leftovers to enjoy later or share with their friends.
The important thing to remember is, whether you have an aging parent or grandparent, a family friend, or a longtime neighbor, to make sure they know you’re thinking about them and that they are loved and appreciated. And make sure you truly enjoy the time you spend with your senior loved ones so that it’s a rewarding experience for both of you.