There’s a good chance you know what it’s like to feel lonely. It’s not healthy to be isolated and alone most of the time. Multiple studies have shown the devastating effects of social isolation, especially on seniors – risk of cognitive decline, health problems, depression, and increased rates of infection and mortality.
This year, make an extra effort to include and visit with your aging loved ones over the holidays. Being in each other’s company can have positive effects on both of you – for your mental, emotional, and physical health.
How to Make the Most of Your Time Together
Your aging loved one may be going through a different phase of life from you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect over the holidays. Use these tips to make the most of your time together:
- Bring up positive memories. Visits during the holidays are the perfect time to bring up wonderful memories you have with your loved one. Think about your good times together, or a memory that still makes you laugh to this day. Reminisce about it. You’ll be amazed how impactful a funny story, old videos and photos, or a story from the past can be to your aging loved one.
- Use the time together to make new memories. Who says you have to sit around and talk the entire visit? Use it as an opportunity to do something fun together, whether it’s playing a round of cards, or a new board game, or going for a short walk around the neighborhood. You may one day look back at this time and smile as you remember the good time you had together.
- Ask how your loved one is doing and really listen to the answer. Small-talk is a wonderful way to nonchalantly detect how your loved one is doing. Are they still able to get around without difficulty? Have they been feeling exceptionally anxious lately? Are they eating well-balanced meals and drinking plenty of water? And does it appear they’re taking care of themselves in terms of grooming and exercising? Be delicate with these topics – sometimes you can get the answers from observations alone (read the next tip for more on this).
- Look for signs your loved one needs help. You may not be able to ask and get a clear answer about how your loved one is doing, so look for warning signs such as sudden weight loss or weight gain, cleanliness of the home, increased memory problems such as confusion or disorientation, and sudden changes in mood or personality.
- Consider discussing senior living options. If you notice some of the warning signs noted above, it may be an ideal opportunity to get your loved one’s thoughts on assisted living communities. Handle the topic carefully by asking questions instead of declaring your opinion – what does your loved one think of the idea? What concerns do they have? What wish-list items do they have? Make it an open-ended conversation, not a one-way conversation.
Your aging loved one is going through a unique phase in life, and the holidays are the perfect time to catch up. Use this time wisely to ask questions, discuss important topics, and make many more happy memories.