Elderly loneliness at Christmas, how can we help?

Christmas can be a time when the elderly find it harder to cope. Some older adults might need physical and emotional support all year round, but Christmas can feel like a tougher time for most people. A lot of people live on their own, and elderly loneliness at Christmas is more widespread than we might think

Elderly loneliness at Christmas

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for people over the age of 65 to be spending Christmas alone. Some elderly people might be unable to spend time with their grown-up children and their families, especially if they live abroad or too far and if travelling is not an option. Some might not even have children. And for those who have lost their spouses or partners, feeling lonely at this time of year can be overwhelming as well as damaging to their physical and mental health.

Loneliness already affects over 2 million older people in the UK
, according to statistics shared by the leading charity Age UK in an extensive report called Loneliness in later life. We talk more about this topic, and about what we can do to help, in our article: Reducing loneliness in the elderly.

According to a recent piece published by the independent,

"Christmas is considered to be the loneliest time of the year for more than 1.5m older people."

The statistic was shared in a report run by the charity Age UK,

"which questioned 2,000 people aged 65 and over" and "estimates that around 200,000 elderly people will spend the holiday alone this year. And those who have recently been widowed struggle the most during the season."

They go on to say that

"over 750,000 older widowed people often feel more lonely over Christmas than at any other time of the year",

and in total, it's estimated that

"more than three million older people may not be looking forward to the festive season ... because it brings back too many memories of people who have passed away and of happier times".

How Home Instead CAREGivers can help - this Christmas and beyond

Here at Home Instead, we understand what it is like for our clients and other elderly people in the community to experience loneliness during the Christmas period and specifically on Christmas day. This is why our CAREGivers always go out of their way to make the festive period as special as it can possibly be for our clients.

For example:

  • Where the client is willing, our CAREGivers help with them to put up their Christmas tree and decorations at home.
  • If a client is planning to spend the day at home, we might help them prepare a special Christmas meal, whether that is just for themselves, or a small gathering with friends and family.
  • Where we have clients who live alone and have no specific plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Boxing Day, we help them make some! We encourage our CAREGivers to get in touch with each other and perhaps arrange for our clients to get together, if possible and appropriate. Spending an afternoon with each other, playing games, and having a chat can be great ways to combat feelings of loneliness.
  • Where our clients require 24/7 care or daily care, it goes without saying that our CAREGivers will be working during the holidays. So we always encourage them to do something to make the day special for our clients (and themselves), in whichever way they possibly can.

But our CAREGivers are not the only people who can help!

If we are willing, we can all go out of our way to do a little something for our parents, relatives, or the elderly in our community. Any time we can spare could make a difference to someone's life and help make people feel a little less lonely this Christmas?

What can we do to help the elderly combat loneliness this Christmas? 

Having care is of huge help. But not everyone can afford it or has a family who can arrange it for them. Most of us are lucky enough to have some well-deserved time off work (while children have time off school) during the Christmas holidays. So, with the gift of a little more time on our hands, what can we all do to help?

Check-in on your neighbours

When is the last time you visited your elderly neighbour? Do you even know them? If you don't, this is the perfect opportunity. Why not plan to go over and introduce yourself, perhaps bringing a small gift or offering to make them a cup of tea? You might be the only person they have spoken to in some time. And while this may not seem like much to you, it could make all the difference to someone who is struggling with loneliness.

Perhaps if they don't have the means or the ability to do it themselves, you could offer to help them to decorate their home. Or you could help with small tasks around the house - maybe you could offer to take out their rubbish, sort their recycling, or help with the weekly or Christmas shopping

Invite someone for Christmas lunch

This may not always be possible. But if you know someone in your area or your community who is on their own this Christmas, why not invite them over? If having a meal at yours is not an option, perhaps they could come and share a movie or a game of cards with your family in the afternoon?

If, like us, you are based in London, chances are you are lucky enough to have neighbours from different cultures or backgrounds. Why not spend some time together and share your traditions, so they can tell you about theirs if they are open to it? While it is true that people from other religions might not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, if you live in the UK, Christmas is happening all around you, and most people do not mind getting involved, no matter their background!

Spending some time together, eating food, and sharing stories and experiences does not have to be about religion. Receiving an invite from a kind member of the community can make all the difference to someone's day, so if this is an option for you, why not consider it?

Go and visit an elderly friend or a relative

You might have an older friend or relative who you don't see very often. Taking advantage of having some time off work, you could perhaps plan a visit this year. Why not take your children with you and spend an afternoon with your friend or relative during the festive period? Our children don't often have many opportunities to interact with the elderly these days. So why not try and create the chance?

And if you find that your children are struggling to find common ground to interact, you might want to use some of the tips from our article: 5 topics to talk about with your grandparents.

Volunteer

Have you ever considered becoming a volunteer with the charity Age UK?

You can do so in different ways:

  • Join their shop team.
  • Support your local Age UK branch.
  • Become a telephone befriender.
  • Fundraise for older people.
  • Campaign for older people.

The Age UK telephone friendship service, 'Call in Time', matches volunteers with elderly people who want to have a weekly 30-minute conversation over the phone. As the 'befriender', you will be asked to call someone over the age of 60. And you can do so from the comfort of your own home. It might be a small gesture for you, but it could be the best part of someone's week.

When you sign up, Age UK match you with a suitable older person based on your interests. So you should never run out of topics to talk about. And you might find it rewarding, entertaining, and informative all at the same time! So if you haven't done this before, perhaps you could try this out at Christmas.

If you sign up with your local Age UK branch or a similar organisation that runs in your area, you could also help in a number of other ways. Here are some of the things you could do to help over the festive season:

  • Deliver a homecooked meal to someone with reduced mobility who cannot take part in a community Christmas lunch. (Just make a little extra when you cook your own!).
  • Help prepare or serve food at a Christmas community event.
  • Drive people to and back from church to a relative, or a community meal.
  • Visit someone in the hospital or a local care home.

o find out more about how you can volunteer with Age UK, click here or call Age UK directly on 0800 169 8787.

Other organisations where you can volunteer 

Age UK might be the largest charity working with older people in the UK, but you can also contact the following organisations:

  • Contact the Elderly. They hold monthly tea parties for over-75s on Sunday afternoons. Could you volunteer to drive someone? Or perhaps host a party in your home or a local venue?
  • Friends of the Elderly. They run day centres and coffee mornings and also have a telephone befriending service (you can check out their Be a Friend campaign).
  • Independent Age. Would you be available to drop in for a regular coffee and a chat with an elderly person?
  • Royal Voluntary Service. You can volunteer your time to help with daily tasks.
  • The Silver Line. They run a helpline for older people that you can volunteer for.

Practical ways our CAREGivers can help during the Christmas season (and beyond)

Having care during the Christmas period can help combat loneliness. But a CAREGiver is not just for Christmas! Here are some of the practical ways we can help our clients on an ongoing basis where needed:

  • Home help. We understand that living well starts with looking after the home. Having a clean and tidy place to live can have positive effects on health and wellbeing. So we regularly help with tasks that take care of your home environment, like taking out the bins, dusting, hoovering, or decluttering. We also enjoy feeding the cat(s), washing, ironing - you name it.
  • Companionship. If you need a hand with the weekly shop or don't fancy going to that doctor's appointment on your own, we can help. Our CAREGivers love nothing more than supporting our clients with outings and activities that they would not otherwise be able to undertake on their own, like joining a music class or learning a new instrument, for example.
  • Personal care. Whether it is helping with personal hygiene or keeping well and active, we have our clients covered. We support with personal care tasks like dressing, eating, sleeping or bathing, and take pride in being able to make a difference to someone's quality of life.
  • Dementia care. With one in six adults over the age of 80 in the UK living with dementia, the condition is more common than people think. While there is currently no cure for dementia, there is care. And with the right support, we can help maintain a high quality of life even in the face of memory loss. Our approach is about being proactive, rather than reactive, about the disease. And if you would like more information about dementia, head over to our article: Having a CAREGiver looking after someone with dementia at home.

Would you like our support?  

If you are unsure about how home care can help you or your loved ones remain independent but want to explore the possibilities of having some external support, let us help you work out how to have that first conversation. If you or an elderly relative of yours:

  • are happy living at home,
  • are able to live safely,
  • need some extra help with certain tasks,
  • and don't have any specific medical requirements which require nursing,

then home care could be the right option for you.

To understand a bit more about what it means to remain in the comfort of your own home, we suggest you watch our beautiful video, The Third Stair (affectionately known as 'Stanley's Story). And if you would like to get in touch with us for a FREE Care Consultation where we can talk about your requirements and needs, you can give us a call on 0208 0223276, fill in the form on our website, or pop into our office. We are based in Chiswick and would love nothing more than to welcome you for a cup of tea and a cuddle with our rescue dog Cupcake.

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