It is important to consider the care and needs of older people throughout the year, but, during the festive season, a number of factors merge together to create unique challenges for caring for your loved one.
Here’s an introduction to how you can support your loved one in their own home, and during family visits this Christmas.
Difficulties faced by older people over the Christmas period
Loneliness and depression
Christmas is a time for friends and family, but many older people spend more time reflecting on people they’ve lost at this time of year.
Loneliness affects one in five older people. In amongst all the excitement and energy of Christmas, it’s important to stay connected with older friends or relatives who are finding it difficult to stay engaged.
You can ensure your loved one knows they’re still a respected and an important member of the family unit. Help them attend family get-togethers, and involve them in trips to carol concerts or pantomimes.
Seasonal affective disorder
Another factor is seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a condition that causes depression and affects around 20% of adults in one form or another.
Encourage your loved one to get enough natural sunlight, and consider asking them to speak to their doctor about dietary supplements, such as vitamin D and omega-3.
Ice, slick surfaces and wet leaves all increase the risk of a fall in winter. Older people might also be more susceptible to feeling the cold, so make sure they are prepared for the winter weather, and maybe spend less time outside to reduce the risk of falling. Help them overcome these challenges by making sure access to their property is safe to walk on. Suggest using supportive services like dial-a-ride wherever possible, and remember to assist with the things they have specialist tools for at home, such as climbing the stairs.
Many studies have suggested that we’re also more susceptible to illness during the coldest months.
A condition that’s a moderate inconvenience for younger adults — such as the flu — can have a greater effect on older people, increasing the risk of hospitalisation and extending recovery times.
Make sure your loved one is up-to-date with all their vaccinations, and try to ensure they’re eating a balanced diet that provides the nutritional support they need. Keep the house warm, encourage them to wear layers and to keep windows closed to keep draughts out.
If your loved one lives on their own, or with one other person for most of the year, it can be difficult to adjust to a room full of people.
All the noise and movement, combined with an altered routine has the potential to make your loved one feel anxious.
Dedicate some quieter time to sit and speak to your loved one individually, or set aside a quiet spot in the house that they can retire to if they need a break.
Older people are faced with additional challenges throughout the winter months. But, you can help your loved one overcome these difficulties and give them a Christmas to remember by taking small steps to make sure they get the support they need.