This holiday season, as we spent time with friends and family there were those among us, who were very much alone. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, usually a time of joy and celebration, can be a time of great sadness and loneliness for the elderly. While we shop, party and prepare for the big events, many of our elders will spend this time alone dealing with feelings of depression, loss and abandonment. This is especially magnified for those who have lost a spouse and are separated from their children by great distances. The holiday season can trigger a mourning period that can lead to major declines in their physical and mental health status.
This year, a few of my clients were set to spend the Holidays alone without any contact with their family members. The very prospect of them alone for the holidays caused me to experience deep feelings of great sadness. Fortunately, I had caregivers willing to give of themselves and their time to spend the holidays with our clients. Next year, if you are struggling to find the perfect gift for the elders in your life, give the most valuable gift known to man, the gift of time. Here are five ways to do just that.
1. Pamper them. Brush her hair, paint her nails, massage her feet, give him a shave, or rub his back; these small tokens make the elder feel good about themselves and their appearance with the added benefit of beneficial physical contact.
2. Read to them. Find out who their favorite author or poet is and get them a copy from the library or bookstore to read to them. For those with failing eyesight, this gift is very precious.
3. Take them out. When you spend most of your days home alone, going out is a special treat. Take them out for a show, a meal, or to church. Give them a reason to dress up and something to look forward to.
4. Listen to them. Almost everyone on the planet has something to teach or an extraordinary story to tell. Our elders have stories to share; stories of heartbreak, stories of adventure, and stories of love. Let them reminisce. Weekly phone calls will work wonders.
5. Laugh with them. We all know that laughter is good for the soul, but what most of you don’t know is that some of the most outrageous jokes I’ve ever heard were shared with me by my elders. Laughter also has the added benefit of creating a bond between two people.
Remember people may forget what you have said and what you have done but they will never ever forget how you have made them feel. Enjoy your elder friends and family members while you have them, because none of us are promised tomorrow.