When the winter months roll around, we often busy ourselves by getting ready for the holidays and planning celebrations. For many seniors, though, the winter can be an especially difficult time. Humans are social creatures, but the bitter cold of December and January can be isolating and even lead to poor health. In particular, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) hinders people during the winter months and can be a health hazard for many seniors, according to AgingCare.com. SAD is a form of depression that worsens during a specific time of year, most commonly during the winter months when the weather is cold and days are shorter. Increased exposure to sunlight or using light boxes can bring relief for people with SAD, but it’s also important for these individuals to be active and social despite the winter chill.
Further, a Pew Research Center survey showed that time with family and friends is what people most look forward to during the holidays. This is certainly reflected in the advertisements, movies, and TV shows we see around at the end of the year. Scenes of families sharing meals and making memories can be painful triggers for those who aren’t able to do the same. At Sunny Days In-Home Care, we believe that there are certain ways you can help loved ones with loneliness during the holidays. These include:
Reach Out to Loved Ones or Acquaintances During the Winter Months
If you know a senior who may be lonely, reach out to them during the winter months. Your schedule may not have allowed for a long visit before Christmas, but there’s always time after the holidays to stop by and say hello. That homebound senior may cherish your 15-minute chat for days to come. If you live far away, ask a tech-savvy neighbor to help set up Skype, Facetime or another video chat program for your loved one and schedule weekly calls.
Maybe you don’t have a loved one in your immediate circle who needs help. Remember that there are always opportunities to help others who you may not already know. Your local food bank, senior center, or religious institution may have a list of seniors who would benefit from a visit or check-in. Offer to spend some time with them, make them a meal, or run an errand for them. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, consider reaching out to a senior community center in Allegheny County.
Once you’ve connected with a senior who needs help during the winter, there are many ways you can brighten their days:
- Bring a pre-cooked meal to their house. Consider packaging the food in several small containers so they’ll have multiple meals. Good eating habits for seniors are important for health and nutrition.
- Spend a few hours making his or her home safer with our home safety checklist.
- Schedule an in-home yoga session with you and your loved one to help relieve joint pain, if your loved one is well enough to exercise.
- Take a trip to the mall or local recreation center when the weather’s clear.
- Get ready for spring by deep-cleaning a room – or more – at your loved one’s house.
- Invite them to a celebration or event at your home, your child’s school, or another location, and offer to provide transportation.
Companionship can help stave off mental health issues, and may even help people to live longer and healthier lives. If someone has regular contact with other people, changes in their appearance or personality that could be indicative of a health problem are likely to be noticed much sooner. By spending time with an elderly loved one or acquaintance, you’ll be more attuned to those changes. If you’ve found that your loved one needs more care than what you can provide, contact Sunny Days In-Home Care to receive more information about the services that we offer.