Ten ways to combat loneliness at Christmas
With the Christmas season fast approaching, it should be a time of joy and happiness for everyone. Unfortunately, this is the time of the year when some vulnerable groups of people, particularly the elderly, may feel lonely or neglected. Across our six care homes in Cork, Dublin, and Waterford, we always strive to make sure that our residents are content and well-cared for at all times of the year, but what can we do as a community to support all elderly people that we know, particularly in the Christmas season?
Read our top ten ways that you can provide care or support to an older person at this time of the year and brighten up their Christmas.
1. Make a visit at Christmas
You don’t have to stay long, just pop over for a cup of tea one evening or a morning if you have the time. It will surely brighten up their day. At Christmas, CareChoice care staff work extremely hard to provide our residents with extra festive activities but it is still nice to see some familiar faces, so why not take a break from the shopping and pop in for tea and a chat.
2. Accompany them
We often see our older neighbours or relatives going about their daily business. Why not join them on their stroll to the bus stop, or accompany them to the shops for their weekly shopping? If you meet them when you are out and about, stop to say ‘hello’ if you have the time instead of rushing by, or maybe suggest getting coffee or lunch together? Chatting with them for just those short few minutes could provide them with much needed social interaction for that day.
3. Ask them to get involved in the community
At Christmas, lots of people attend book clubs, school raffles for the kids, or community Christmas parties. Even if it is just a community meeting or mass, why not suggest that they come along? Often, older persons would like to go to these events but are uncomfortable with going out late at night on their own, particularly when winter nights are dark so early. You may be the necessary assistance they needed to get out of the house and meet other people.
4. Ask for advice
At Christmas, we are always looking for gift ideas, recipes for the turkey or the best way to cook roast potatoes. It is worth remembering that older people often have years of experience with these situations. Why not pop over to ask for some advice? It will give them a welcome distraction and they may just surprise you with their tried-and-tested advice! It is nice for them to feel like they can provide you with something of value and it is also good to remind our elderly relatives, neighbours and friends that they are important too.
5. Give them some lessons
In today’s world, it is not unusual for older persons to have children and grandchildren dispersed around the world. This can make Christmas especially lonely, especially if they don’t know how to contact them. Why not spend a few minutes helping them to set up a Facebook account or Skype so that they can see their relatives across the world. If you are visiting them at CareChoice, arrange to have a relative overseas Facetime you so that your older relative will have the opportunity to speak with them too.
6. Send a card or some photos
If you have a relative who lives further away, you may not be able to call over to see them. However, a simple card will let them know that you are thinking of them this year. Perhaps include some photos of the family if they haven’t seen you in awhile. You can always follow up this card with a phonecall afterwards.
7. Drop off some news
At CareChoice, we know that elder people love to chat about current events, local gossip and other interesting news items. If you have finished with a magazine, newspaper or book, why not call to an older neighbour to ask if they would like to read it? It will provide them with some entertainment and is the perfect ice-breaker for the next time you meet, or call for tea.
8. Invite them over
If you are close to a relative or neighbour, you might decide to have them call over for dinner or tea once a week. Perhaps you could suggest an after-dinner board game, or go-fish? At CareChoice, our residents can visit relatives overnight (link), just make sure that you let us know where you are going and when you will be back.
9. Take out their bins
Winter time can be particularly tricky for the elderly. For elderly people who don’t have assistance from nurses or caregivers, the winter rain, sleet and snow can be detrimental, often causing falls. Arrange to take out an elderly relative or neighbour’s bins for them as needed, or pop to the shop for much needed groceries in bad weather. You might also offer to give them your phone number in case they have any worries at night. Often, elderly people may be worried about break-ins in dark winter weather and it will be nice to have the comfort of a phone call if they feel worried.
10. Swap chores
For older people, it can be hard to pass the time at home, especially if the weather is bad. Maybe you could ask if they would like to assist you with an activity that they enjoy to break up the time? Perhaps they could help you with some gift wrapping or some baking and in return you could help them to write out and post their Christmas cards. At CareChoice, our residents like to write cards too, and in most of our care homes, we help our residents to handcraft and write their own during one of our Christmas craft classes.
Remember that calling to visit an elderly relative or neighbour is anything but boring, with lots of stories to be shared. If you would like to know more about the activities that we provide to our residents at Christmas, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.