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Aging and the Holidays: Helping the Elderly Deal with Holiday Loneliness

The holidays are normally a time to be together with family and to enjoy each other’s company. For many seniors, the holiday season can be full of mixed feelings as they remember things they used to do or loved ones they have lost. Whether they live independently or in an assisted living facility, they may struggle with feeling lonely, especially during the holidays.

To help your loved ones stay healthy and engaged, and to avoid isolation all year round, consider using the CHEERs plan:

  • Check on your loved ones – don’t just call, but stop by and visit your loved one in their home. If they live alone, make sure they have food in their fridge, check to see if they’re taking care of themselves and their home and check for fall hazards. If they need help, you’re more likely to notice if you spend time there.
  • Help your loved ones stay engaged – seniors that live alone can experience depression. Work to include them in family events and keep them involved with other people. Take the time to listen to them and offer to help them with transportation if you can. If they live in an assisted living facility, offer to help decorate their room for the holidays or bring them pictures to put up.
  • Empower them to live independently – help set them up to be successful on their own. You can set them up with a medical alarm, mobility devices and meal delivery services that will help them keep their independence and stay healthy.
  • Enjoy your time together – encourage group activities that they can participate in.
  • Reminisce with loved ones – get out photo albums, family videos or other memorable items that bring the past back to life. Honor loved ones that you’ve lost and allow them to share their memories with you.

If your loved one has been experiencing signs of depression for more than two weeks, and lifestyle changes aren’t helping to alleviate the symptoms, it may be time to talk to their doctor or contact a behavioral health specialist. Depression is a serious condition and the longer treatment is delayed, the harder the recovery. Cone Health Behavioral Health Services has an exceptional team of therapists, psychiatrists, physician assistants, nurses and other behavioral healthcare professionals dedicated to treating individuals throughout the community suffering from depression and helping them recover.

Spokesperson Background:

Barbara “B” Akins is a registered nurse and staff educator at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital.  Barbara received a Bachelor of Science in nursing from North Carolina A & T University in 1975.  She is also certified in the Congregational Nurse Program, through The Duke Endowment and the Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation.