Holidays should be happy times, with generations of traditions coming to the forefront. After all, we say we celebrate the holidays.
The reality, however, is that many people can feel isolated and lonely during this season of goodwill.
Seniors can have an especially hard time with the holidays. However, there are things you can do during the holidays to help. By simplifying the season and concentrating on what really matters — people — you can offer your parent help through what can be a time of discouragement.
1. Listen and understand when they want to talk, even if the talk is negative. They are likely mourning many of the losses experienced over the years. Your empathy is vital here. Try to put yourself into their place.
2. Remind your loved one how important he is as a part of your own celebration and that of the entire family. Be especially careful not to act like what you do for him is a duty. This can be tough, as your tired body language can show through. Again, put yourself in his place. He may feel useless and burdensome. Remind him he is loved.
3. Holiday cards often bring bad news, and diminish in quantity. Take time to read cards with your mom and reminisce about the fun times everyone had years ago. Pull out old pictures and reminisce about holidays past. You can also help write cards to keep the connection with lifelong friends.
4. Help Dad see that you are trying to simplify the holidays in order to bring back the real meaning of your celebrations. Let him know you are trying to ignore the hype that has increased over the years. Remind him that he taught you that it’s people who count, and thank him for that.
5. If your parent is in an assisted-living community or nursing home, check with the local kindergarten or day-care centers to see if they can bring children to visit. The freshness of the small children’s presence can help lighten a day for a senior in physical or emotional pain.
6. Check with your parents’ church or spiritual center for programs that send visitors to the home. The Stephen Ministry is a program many Christian churches offer. These people undergo considerable training that provides them with tools to listen compassionately and creatively. This can go a long way toward helping with depression over the holidays.
7. Help decorate their home or room to keep in the spirit of the holidays.
8. Bring traditional baked goods or treats regularly for your parents and their friends to share.
9. Call your mom’s friends and see if they can come to a party. Make their dinner table special. Whether your parents are at home or in a senior residence, try to make the table festive with some appropriate colors and themes.
10. Spend time with your parents. This is the most important thing you can do.
Your time is precious to you. You likely have many responsibilities that keep you busy. However, your time is the most valuable gift you can give your parents during the holidays. Do what you can without stressing yourself beyond your limits. Remember that you won’t reach perfection and you won’t please everyone all of the time. But your best efforts will be good enough and a blessing for sure.
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