By Cindy Sproles
The holidays have arrived. Christmas trees, decorations, parties, a flurry of friends and family, keep us filled with joy and fun. However, the fun does not always resonate with our seniors. There are a number of things that “put a damper” on such a festive season. It’s important to become sensitive to those things that may trigger hardship or sadness for our elders.
Despite the stumbling blocks the holidays bring, we challenge you to put on an elf hat and become an “Elder” Elf. What does an Elder Elf do? It’s simple. Make visits, calls, visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Make yourself available to those seniors who may be lonely or forgotten for the holidays.
Be aware of the following things and take action:
*Loneliness is a major source of depression – The holidays spur times of deep reflection for everyone. Fond memories of loved ones past swirl in our minds as we pull out the Christmas decorations. For aging parents, the loss of a spouse or even children, surface and the longing for times past rise. Be mindful of those elders who have lost their spouse. Invite them to spend time with you, call, visit, include them in your holiday activities.
*Take note of the things that cause stress – For some aging parents, the festive hoopla is confusing, i.e. Alzheimer’s patients, those with dementia. Festivities sometimes cause confusion and stress. Simply be mindful of those needs and adjust visits and interaction to fit their needs.
*Give seniors permission to NOT purchase Christmas gifts – It sounds a little harsh, but the truth is, many seniors will overspend their already slim budget, in order to purchase gifts for grandchildren and great grandchildren. Those gifts can sometimes number in the 50’s depending on the number of children. Be sensitive to the small retirement budget of elder parents and give them permission to stop the Christmas spending. Initiate a “name drawing” or a dirty Santa Christmas where only one gift is purchased rather than buying for every family member. It’s a hard habit to break but one that will relieve enormous stress from your aging parents.
*Note holiday safety – Scams will be on the rise, opportunity for robberies and even identity theft – Take the necessary precautions to firm up security for your aging parents. Be sure deadbolts are in place, windows and less used doors are locked. Encourage seniors to never give their social security or bank information to anyone over the phone. Place charge cards and debit cards in a secure location. Keep an eye on bills and if your aging parent has difficulty getting to the street for their mail, check with the Postal Service about adding a mailbox at the door of a parent’s resident. Safety is always first.
One other suggestion. If your aging parents have since passed, adopt a senior at a nursing home or hospital. Look in your church at seniors who may be alone and make them part of your Christmas season. Assisted living and nursing home facilities maintain a list of those who have no family. Make Christmas stockings by gathering items such as toothpaste, skid-free socks, lap blankets, short devotional books, fragrance free sensitive skin lotions, close-heeled house shoes, soft cookies to deliver to nursing homes. Something so small can make such a wonderful difference.
This Christmas, be an Elder Elf. It’s our job to care for our aging parents and friends. Put on the elf ears and become a senior’s special elf.