When holiday season comes to mind, it’s usually considered a time of joy and connection, but for elderly people in aged care it can be a period of increased loneliness.
There are many reasons why older individuals might feel a sense of isolation increase during this time of year. For some, their family members may be busier than usual or heading away over the festive period. Others might find they are more aware of their reduced energy or mobility, reducing their ability or inclination to attend events. It can also be a time that people tend to reflect on loved ones who have passed away and are no longer around.
With research indicating that loneliness can have a notable negative impact on health and wellbeing, According to Beyond Blue, lonely people are more likely to report symptoms of depression, be at risk of high blood pressure, and have increased risk of heart attack.
So, while we’re wrapping gifts and setting up Christmas trees this year, let’s take the time to keep elderly members of the community front of mind.
Six tips to reduce holiday loneliness in aged care
As aged care professionals, we have the opportunity to be a lifeline for older people. We can play a vital role in ensuring that seniors feel valued and connected during the holiday season.
Let’s look at six simple tips to keep in mind for ensuring that the elderly people in your care can avoid feeling isolated this Christmas.
1 Foster festive environments
Whether you work in residential care or home care, be a part of spreading some cheer by enhancing spaces with holiday decorations. Playing uplifting festive music can boost the mood and why not explore activities like making Christmas cards or watching festive films.
2 Encourage family involvement
Everyone’s family situation is different, but where possible try to facilitate family visits and involvement in holiday festivities. Encourage families to bring in decorations, or participate in events, or simply spend quality time with their loved ones. Sometimes a phone call can make all the difference, and a gentle reminder can help families to take action.
3 Offer to help with shopping
If part of your role is supporting elderly people with shopping and errands, check in on whether they need specific help for the festive period. They may need a prompt to recognise that it’s that time of year.
4 Support volunteer organisations
The holiday season is a great time to explore volunteering opportunities. For aged care workers, maybe this is another way to put your compassion and expertise to great use and reduce loneliness for others.
5 Make it personal
Aged care introduces you people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life. Take the time to learn about the holiday traditions and preferences of those in your care so that you can make them feel seen and appreciated. Incorporating traditions where possible can bring about comfort and joy.
6 Digital connections
The elderly people in your care may have loved ones far away who they cannot visit. Supporting seniors to utilise technology to connect with their family or friends can be a huge help, whether it’s helping them get on to a video call or just send or receive a text message.
Aged care workers, families, and volunteers can all play an important role in creating a festive and inclusive atmosphere that ensures older people feel valued and connected during this special time of the year. By thinking about our seniors and implementing these tips, we can contribute to making the holiday season truly joyful for everyone in the aged care community.