Williamson County has more than 25 senior living facilities. Due to COVID-19 spikes, none of those living in these facilities will be allowed to see family face to face this Christmas. If you have family in independent or some type of care facility, it is important to find ways to make this holiday extra special.
“…According to [the] National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH),” it says on agingcare.com, “older adults who are socially isolated are at higher risk for depression. The focus on family, friends and togetherness during this time of year can actually bring melancholy feelings to the forefront for many elders. With coronavirus cases ramping up, it’s more important than ever to be supportive of and attentive to our loved ones, but in ways that keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.”
COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone this holiday season, but especially our seniors who are living in 55+ housing, assisted living, memory care, and nursing facilities. Many have not seen family since March of this year. While these various homes, condos, and apartment complexes are trying hard to give everyone a good holiday season, it is important for every family to find ways to connect from a distance.
Michelle Kuhnle, who works for National Health Care, offered a few suggestions of things that families can do for each other.
- First and foremost, call your loved-one, FaceTime, and window visit as much as possible. A caring voice on the other end of the phone lets them know that they are not alone, and that in spite of being separated by the pandemic, they are loved. “Make a point of actively listening when your loved one wants to talk, even if the discussion is negative,” according to aging care. “It may also reveal why they are feeling down and inspire other ways of lifting their spirits.”
2. Provide your loved one with their favorite holiday meal or treat. You can make arrangements to drop it off where they are living, or arrange for the facility to create the dish.
3. Send photographs of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Or better yet, Zoom in a live holiday performance by one or more.
4. Have grandchildren and great grandchildren create special cards or drawings, then have them pull them together into a book they can flip through to see them all. Cards mean a lot to seniors, and Christmas cards are often a huge part of their traditions.
5. See if you can make arrangements for your senior to be visited by a pet therapy pet. These interactions are uplifting.
6. Gather outside the senior living resident’s window with signs of greetings and well-wishes. Put together a PowerPoint of family photos to send to them set to holiday music, or some of their favorite tunes that you can show them.
7. If your loved one is on the first floor, stick a suction-cupped bird feeder on their window and regularly fill it with bird seed.
8. Organize your church group or neighborhood to carol outside resident windows or balcony.
9. Organize your church group or neighborhood to provide a sign parade outside resident windows or off their balcony.
10. Focus on the positive instead of the negative when you are talking to them. You can even share decorating with them using facetime – either as you decorate, or if they are decorating their apartment. Ask them to share stories of their decorations. They usually have stories about everything.
11. Provide gifts that encourage movement, a number of residents in senior facilities will just staying in their pajamas all day long, hardly moving, which is very bad for them.
12. Provide gifts that encourage mental stimulation to exercise the brain like word games, puzzles, number games, history games, etc. You can even drop off a goodie box with activities.
If others out there have ideas for other ways to help seniors have a healthy and happy holiday season, please share them with our readership! As COVID-19 numbers are rising, more senior facilities are finding themselves having to lock down tight again to keep everyone safe.