The Holidays are just around the corner. For many people, this is a time of excitement, stress, overspending, visits with family, and time off of work to unwind.
For many older adults, this is a time of loneliness, sadness, regret and feelings of being forgotten.
Here are 3 ways you can be kind and compassionate over the Christmas season with the older adult in your life:
1. The Holidays can Heighten Loss and Sadness
The Older Adult in your life (or maybe even you) may have gone through a recent transition this year or a few years ago. They may have downsized and moved out of the family home. Maybe a spouse passed away and left them alone. Maybe a family member is no longer on good speaking terms. Change and loss are more obvious at Christmas, when there is the “expectation” of things looking a certain way or having a past tradition, but the reality is, life has changed. As people get older, change is harder to accept.
How can you help?
Notice if you see someone who seems sad, listen without judgement if they open up, and never underestimate the power of a good hug, smile and even just sitting together.
2. The Holidays can Heighten Loss of Ability
I have a client in her 70’s who has told me that because of her hearing aids and difficulty hearing, she avoids all Christmas parties, big gatherings and social affairs. Many of her peers think she is anti-social, but the truth is, she can’t hear the conversation when in a group.
So she avoids these parties altogether.
How can you help?
Be sensitive to other’s needs. Does the senior in your life use a cane or walker or are they unsteady on their feet? Offer an arm to help them when crossing the street or getting into your car.
Do they have a hard time opening jars or preparing food now, even though they have “always made Grandma’s turkey dinner”? Offer to help and make sure they have a chance to rest before the big dinner.
Does your aging mother live in another city? Stay connected throughout the holidays through Facetime or pick up the phone to ask advice for her special dessert. My German grandma used to love when I would call her to ask exactly how many pinches of salt I should add to her Hungarian Goulash recipe.
3. The Holidays can Heighten Loss of Time
Your senior parent or grandparent may start to feel that their time on this earth is limited. This may come out expressed as introspection and sharing stories, or it may come out as frustration or regret. Time goes by so fast, and when another Christmas rolls around, it may reveal how little they have actually done, or highlight regrets about their family and big life decisions.
How you can help?
Spend time asking about their childhood, memories from the past or go deeper and ask what they wish they had learned earlier in life.
When you ask a question, focus on the person in front of you as you listen. Often we are in our own head thinking about how we can respond. Listen and be with them.
Focus on listening and being present with your senior parent this holiday season. It may not be an easy time of year for you or for them. Being compassionate and loving can be the best gift you can give to the senior in your life this holiday season!