For many of us, there comes a time in life when we look around our home and think, “There is nothing more that I need or want.” After a lifetime of birthdays, holidays and shopping trips we come to recognize that it is not the items we accumulate over our lifetimes that matter, but rather it’s the experiences we have had and our relationships with family and friends that bring the most richness into our lives. The time we spend with each other builds lasting memories and brings us the greatest joy and comfort.
This is especially true for our older clients and family members during the holiday season. But while the season can bring happiness and joy to many, it can be a difficult time for those who are elderly or disabled.
In the Baltimore Sun article, Helping the lonely and elderly during the holidays, the author, Andrea McDaniels, writes, “As people age, they start to outlive spouses and friends and become more homebound as their bodies slow down. Feelings of loneliness — and the health consequences that come with them — become more common. Unhappy feelings associated with isolation can become more pronounced around the holidays, given the emphasis on celebrating with friends and families.”
Caregivers have a particularly important role to play during the holiday season. For an older adult or disabled person living at home, the simple presence of a caregiver means that there is someone there to help, to listen, to share a story, a smile, a laugh, a hug. In fact, one of the most important things a caregiver can offer is the comfort of companionship.
Listen with your heart
In How to Identify and Help Seniors Who Feel Lonely During the Holidays, on the website, The Senior List, the author writes, “Caregivers can help seniors cope with loneliness during the holiday season by putting one strategy above all others: Listening with their hearts. Trying not only to understand your aging loved one’s feelings but also to empathize with them is the best way to show seniors that they’re not alone.”
This year take time to sit with your client or loved one. Encourage them to talk about happy memories. Here are some ideas of what you could do together – look at photo albums, sing along with holiday music or watch a classic holiday movie. Above all else, do these things together. As always there will be tasks to accomplish and life’s many responsibilities pulling us in many different directions. But remember that one of the most important gifts you can give to your loved ones and clients is the gift of your time.