Is your elderly loved one dealing with loneliness? Loneliness can be detrimental to people’s mental health particularly at this time of year. For many elderly people, Christmas can reinforce the loneliness they feel. Once their home was a happy and joyous place filled with family and friends but over time the family grows up and leaves home while friends of a similar age are no longer around.
While Christmas can be a jolly and happy time for many people have you ever wondered what happens to the elderly who live alone or far from their families or with no family at all, over the festive season? Many feel isolated and alone during this time. So here are some things to be aware of to help the elderly experience fewer instances of loneliness.
Some signs of loneliness
Loneliness can manifest in different signs and symptoms. It is not just being alone but the feeling that no one cares. This feeling can make many people but particularly the elderly more susceptible to mental health issues. But how can you tell whether your loved one is lonely?
- Restless sleep: Does your loved one get enough good sleep? Is it restless or can they not get enough sleep? It usually starts with poor sleeping habits and can escalate to insomnia. According to research, the lonelier a person is, the more distorted their sleeping patterns become.
- Increased spending habits: Lonely people can often start investing in material items more than normal. They compensate for the lack of social connections by buying for themselves or gifting to others material items. If your elderly loved one has started spending more, they could be showing signs of being lonely.
- Change in phone contact: many elderly people still rely on contacting and being contacted by phone. Changes to the way they contact family and friends could be another indicator of loneliness. They could be calling you more often to try and fill that loneliness gap or hurdle. It is a feeling that they want to be heard and could imply loneliness. On the other hand, if the phone calls decline, it could also mean the same thing as some people revert into themselves.
- Loss of appetite: Have you seen a change in your elderly loved one’s appetite? While a change in appetite is normal as people age, it is crucial to beware if a person is eating less, it could also be an indication of feelings of loneliness. Some people use food as an escape plan; overeating, as well as loss of appetite, can be ways of averting loneliness. Be mindful of changes in their eating habits.
- Increased references to lonely people: Just like misery, loneliness begets loneliness and can be contagious. If your loved one consistently talks about other friends or neighbours who are lonely, it could mean that they are preoccupied with becoming lonely themselves.
Ways To Help the Elderly at Christmas
Address Sleeping Problems
Many lonely people struggle with sleep. They either sleep too much or too little. If your elderly one lives alone, they are more vulnerable to sleeping problems, and this can feel loneliness. As such, you need to start by treating these problems before they escalate to depressive episodes.
Keep Them Physically Active
Physical activity is one of the most exciting therapies that anyone can take part in. For elderly people who are mobile, taking exercise can be a lifesaver; encourage them to practice simple tasks like walking, stair climbing, and simple workouts. This will enhance their mental state and also their physical and emotional wellbeing too. Encourage them to join a nearby elderly persons exercise group.
Ensure They Eat Healthily
You are what you eat. If you eat healthily, you are also likely to be healthy. Encourage your loved one to eat healthy and nutritional foods. Foods rich in fibre and whole grains are essential for seniors. Being healthy is just one way to combat feelings of loneliness.
Involve Them with a Task
Another way to help the elderly at Christmas is by entrusting them with a task. Many elderly people who live alone will often experience negative thoughts – “what’s the point it’s only me” If your loved one is mobile, give them a task ie read a book they can share their views on, complete a jigsaw so you can talk about what they liked or found hard to do – having a purpose helps combat loneliness.
How do you make your elderly family members feel loved? Show them you care by simply listening to them, and whenever possible spending quality time with them. Don’t fight over who looks after the elderly at Christmas, instead, they should feel the care coming from all sides!
Go for Home Care
Living independently can be a fact of life for many but it can be disheartening for people as they age who have been used to a partner and family in their daily lives. To help the elderly combat loneliness you can choose to involve a home care specialist which delivers care and support in your loved one’s own home. Staff are trained to deliver all types of care; personal care, domestic care, companion care to name a few as well as specialist support such as dementia care.
If you have any concerns about your elderly loved one, seek help and support as quickly as possible.