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Tips to reduce a parents isolation over the holidays

5 Tips to Reduce a Parent’s Isolation Over the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of year to enjoy gatherings with families and friends. However, they can raise anxieties for elderly loved ones who live alone, especially if they have been diagnosed with dementia. What was once a family home full of noisy celebrations can feel empty and cold for older individuals whose children have long since moved away.

That sense of isolation can cause serious problems. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, isolation and loneliness affects 50% of the population and brings with hit a higher risk of dementia, as well as cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Allison Moser Mays, MD, MAS at Cedars-Sinai Hospital urges families to take isolation seriously. “Loneliness and isolation, part of what we call ‘social determinants of health,’ are established risks for poor health and early death, especially for aging adults. The health risks are equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day,” she says.

The holidays can make isolation even more dangerous for elderly individuals. The optimum solution, of course, is to have mom or dad come for a holiday visit. However, for some families that is not possible, whether due to logistics or parents not wanting to leave the comfort of their own homes.

What are some things families can do to reduce isolation by keeping a connection with their elderly parents and friends over the holidays?

  1. Use technology to connect daily. The pandemic ignited technologies that connect individuals through video calls. Make sure your loved one had the technology installed and is trained on how to use it. Then schedule a morning and evening call with them.
  2. Arrange for trusted friends or neighbors to drop in daily. If this isn’t possible, consider engaging an agency or local senior care organization to stop in each day to check in on your loved one.
  3. Reach out to local senior groups or assisted living communities. Many have holiday programs or activities which, with a little planning, could include your loved one.
  4. Send a daily gift, card or letter. Anticipating a card or letter from a loved one is a great way to lift the spirits of your loved one. Include a few photos of family members to make it even more special.
  5. Plan a post-holiday visit. While holiday travel may not be possible, arranging for a visit after the holidays can be more feasible. More importantly, it gives your loved one something to look forward to.

The holidays are a time to share special moments with family and friends. While in-person visits will always be optimum, with some planning, creativity, and perseverance, there are ways to keep the connection alive and well and make everyone feel loved and included this holiday season.