The holidays are going to be much different for most of us this year, but especially for seniors who are being advised by the CDC to avoid all in-person gatherings in order to protect themselves from COVID-19. This comes at a time when more than half of adults 50 and older are already reporting feeling socially isolated during the pandemic according to an October survey by the AARP and United Health Foundation. But take heart, there are ways you can help your loved one during the holidays.
Understanding Social Isolation
It’s important to truly understand the impact of social isolation on seniors. Even under normal circumstances they’re at increased risk for social isolation because they are more likely to live alone as well as face the loss of family or friends, chronic illness and hearing loss. But keep in mind that social isolation is not the same as loneliness which is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact you have. On the other hand, social isolation is quantifiable by the size of your social network and/or ability to access it.
What’s more, according to the CDC social isolation can pose serious health risks such as
- Increased risk of premature death from all causes
- Increased risk of dementia
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Higher rates of depression and anxiety
Helping Seniors During the Holidays
Tips that can help your loved one avoid social isolation during the holidays, and perhaps even after, include:
- Validating Their Feelings – It’s important that your loved one doesn’t brush their feelings under the rug and act like everything is fine. Encourage them to talk about what they are experiencing. Let them know that it’s ok to feel the way they do and you can understand where they are coming from – you’re likely feeling the impact from the pandemic too!
- Keeping Up Connections – Not only should you keep in contact with your loved one regularly, also encourage them to reach out to at least one friend or family member daily whether it’s a video chat, phone call or even talking with their neighbor from the front porch.
- Encouraging Limited Time on Social Media – Or the news for that matter. Yes, it’s important to be aware, however when alone many people use the TV and/or social media as surrogate company. But, being inundated with so much loss, fear and negativity can really further any feelings of anxiety and sadness they may already have. Encouraging them to check in on these sources only once a day may help.
- Helping Them Maintain Physical Health – The mind-body connection is strong so make sure to encourage your loved one to continue to eat nutritious meals, exercise and get enough sleep. If they struggle in any of these areas you might consider meal delivery services for them through Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. For better sleep, following a regular sleep schedule, limiting naps and creating a bedtime routine to wind down can help. If they need a way to stay active, YMCA is offering free, on-demand classes for seniors.
- Plan the Holiday – This helps your loved one know what to expect AND gives them something to look forward to. Plan a FaceTime, Skype or Zoom call between your family and loved one. Consider scheduling a holiday parade with friends and other loved ones driving by with signs or decorations on their car. If your family is musically inclined, plan to do some caroling at your loved one’s house, at a distance of course. Or, plan on doing all three!
Avoid Social Isolation in Boutique Senior Living
This may also be the right time to consider a new living arrangement altogether. One of the biggest benefits to boutique senior living, particularly now, is that you’re never alone. Don’t worry we’re not suggesting a large, institutional feeling community. In boutique senior living your loved one will still enjoy a residential setting, just in a single-family home specially crafted for assisted living!
Our boutique senior living homes are designed for up to 16 residents max and feature a nearly unheard of 1 to 5 caregiver to resident ratio. This means your loved one will have the personalized care they deserve along with the social connection they need as our residents live together just like family. The holidays are a particularly special time for us as we continue traditions just like you would at home such as trimming the tree and decorating the house, baking cookies and gathering for holiday meals family-style on our signature farmhouse tables.
And with a full range of activity programs as well as amenities such as laundry and cleaning services, complimentary Wi-Fi, transportation and safety features like fall alert pendants, state-of-the-art video monitoring and keypad entry/exit access, not only will your loved one avoid social isolation, they’ll be able to thrive!
For more information on boutique senior living, download our Family Decision Toolkit or call (224) 333-6247 to speak to a team member.