Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and special events – these should all be a time of joy and celebration for the entire family. And as our loved one’s age, we need to encourage our traditions to adapt and evolve. By doing so, our focus shifts to ensuring mom and dad enjoy the occasion without the stress, pressure, or loneliness of having to do things exactly the same as before. A senior can be susceptible to loneliness and depression during the holidays more than many realize.
Loneliness and Depression are Linked
According to multiple studies, loneliness in seniors has been significantly linked to depression. Depression, however, can be hard to spot in an aging parent, since symptoms are often similar to natural changes in lifestyle for seniors, such as sleeping more, diminished physical activity, and changes in personal interests.
When depression is caused by loneliness, the symptoms may often not even be apparent when you are with your loved one, since they aren’t experiencing loneliness at that moment. Around the important dates such as anniversaries, birthdays, or other celebratory events, seniors can face more alone time than average for the season. Too often, occasions that were once large family gatherings are now limited in size or scope due to a different location or other obligations among family members.
Increasing Interaction Around Special Dates
If you are concerned that your mom or dad may be feeling lonely or depressed around the special dates or anniversaries, there are things you can do to make event deliver the familiar cheer they might fear missing. While severe depression should always be evaluated and treated by professionals, if depression is caused by loneliness, there are things you can do to help turn things around.
An important thing to remember is that while being physically present is essential; you can compliment the time you are spending with your loved one in-person. There are many ways to interact more frequently than may be possible with visits alone.
Technology for seniors has come a long way to helping improve health, wellness, and interaction; it can help seniors avoid loneliness and depression. Check in by video call, phone, or text. A morning and evening contact can give your loved one something to look forward to during significant dates or events, and help prevent them from feeling lonely or isolated.
Even just a quick text message sent on your way to work – before they’re up for the day – can be an unexpected boost when they get up in the morning. It can be a fun and cheerful start to their day – for example, during a multi-day anniversary or holiday, consider recording a short video of yourself singing the next verse of a holiday song, or sharing a fun anecdote related to the occasion.
Consider a fun gift for each day leading up to the holiday. Delivery of a small token every day can keep your mom or dad eagerly waiting to see what comes next. You can make this even more exciting by coming up with a gift that has multiple components, and bringing the final one in person. For example, a family photograph blown up and turned into a puzzle could provide ongoing enjoyment and deliver an extra smile when you hand deliver the final piece.
Create new traditions
Take a drive around the neighborhood to see how others are celebrating; settle in and watch a favorite old movie or a fun new one; plan special crafts you can do together like making homemade Valentine cards for loved ones who live far away or dying Easter eggs for neighbors. When you work toward repeating the activity every year, you’re creating new traditions and building new memories to last a lifetime.
Celebrate in Style
Decorate their room. If your mom or dad has become less mobile, decorating the place they spend a lot of their time in can add festivity and cheer. Think simplicity and bright colors – for example, paper chains that are easy for aging fingers to fashion.
Smell and taste are two of the strongest triggers we have for creating happy memories. Consider baking a family recipe that will provide a happy, nostalgic feeling. You can also enjoy food-related activities together – for example, decorating cookies or cupcakes or assembling a gumdrop tree.
If your parent is in a senior living community, check with the social director to find out if, when, and what activities are planned around a particular holiday or special event, and make an effort to attend. These events will be more meaningful to when you are with them to share and participate in the experience.
Enjoy yourself, and they will enjoy themselves as well. Showing that you care enough to spend time with your loved ones at important dates is really the greatest gift of all. It doesn’t have to be a big production to be something cherished.
Being present and ‘in the moment’ can help decrease feelings of loneliness, and staying connected in other creative ways can keep loneliness and depression at bay.
Schedule a Tour
To find out more about the activities at Kensington Place coming up, schedule your personalized tour today. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve got planned for Christmas.
Memory loss is life changing for all involved. At Kensington Place, we provide a state-of-the-art memory care program, a higher staff-to-resident ratio than industry standards, and more advanced care services. Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.
For additional resources regarding your loved one’s condition, please read on about our Memory Care, Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care.