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My mom seems withdrawn and “off” during the holiday. How can I make her happy?

By Peter DiMaria

Elderly Care and the Year-End Holidays

For many of us, the holiday season is a time filled with joy and cheer. It gives us opportunity off from work to spend good times with our relatives and those who raised us and cared for us until we could follow on with our own lives. We think of old times, update about recent developments and share a lot of love and affection. However, for older adults, the holidays can be a challenge that leads to isolation and loneliness. If you noticed that mom seems to be acting different, quieter, or more withdrawn this holiday season, here are a few reasons why this could be happening.

Senior care tips: What is happening with mom?

Memories – The holidays bring up a lot of emotions. Both desired and undesired. As we connect to each other, we reminisce moments we spent with the ones we cherish the most. When we bring up the moments we passed with those we lost along the way, we might trigger undesired responses. The nostalgia of happy times can bring melancholia and sadness to seniors.

Limited mobility – As we age, movement is often affected by medical issues like injuries or arthritis. Perhaps your mom or your dad now need a walker or a wheelchair to move around. Maybe they are fragile and at risk of falling? The feeling of not walking around as they used to may be modifying the way they participate in the holiday celebration.

Living Alone – According to Census data, up to 15% of adults over 65 in North Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts live alone. Many seniors experience a lack of regular contact with others that can deteriorate their health. Common diseases associated with this type of solitude include dementia, depression and heart disease.

Living in a Facility – As opposed to living independently at home, being in a nursing home hinders the feelings of independence and autonomy that are precious to every human being. As such, the holidays' messages are always conveyed as a time spent at home, with our loved ones. Therefore, many seniors who are in a facility long for the comforts of their own home during the holidays and reminisce about the traditions created there over the years. Once again, these memories can make them sad.

Depression – For the reasons above, experiencing sadness during the holiday season or right after celebrations are over is a relatively normal experience for many seniors. However, it is essential to pay attention to symptoms of depression which are a year-round occurrence. If they are present, take action and consult a specialist immediately. Don’t leave them alone if you think they are suffering from depression.

Anxiety -– The sadness during the holiday events could also be related to a prolonged absence of their adult children throughout the year. As you get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, they might be feeling happy for seeing you, but also experiencing anxiety, because they know that when the season is over, they might spend a lot of time all alone again.

Elderly Care Tips for a Brighter Holiday

Senior Care and Well Being are Necessary Year-Round

As we all know, the enchantment of the holidays has nothing to do with expensive gifts, but with presence and contact. That is particularly true for seniors, who are more detached from material things and modern gadgets, clothes or objects. They long for the holidays, in anticipation of spending time with you.

A simple visit can make all the difference in the world but is also an opportunity to evaluate your loved one and make decisions. Human interaction, especially with loved ones, can make the holiday season a little brighter. Being together is important, but as we get together, sometimes we avoid difficult subjects. We tend to stay on the surface, not to stir emotions and to prevent the guilt we sometimes feel for their state of mind. If you noticed that your loved one is withdrawn or sad, it is crucial to find time to go beyond superficial connections. Ask general questions about their routines and daily lives, to start a conversation about the feelings they are experiencing. Sharing their emotions and acknowledging that a loved one is listening and trying to help can make seniors feel much better.

Another unintended consequence of the holidays is the after party loneliness and sadness. The good moments will immediately be replaced by missing loved ones who cannot always be present, especially if they live away. If mom seems withdrawn, it might not be lack of happiness with your visit, but because she knows you are going away afterward. If that is the case, you should talk to your siblings and close family to establish a plan to stay in touch and practice activities with your mom throughout the year.

If you live far from her, think about hiring a companion caregiver. A professional caregiver can help them to clean the house, prepare meals and run errands. They can also play cards, watch TV and movies together or start new projects, like an indoor garden.

At our company, we match caregivers who have similar interests as the client, so they can get along quickly as they find they have the same likes and dislikes. Our caregivers are also selected to be compassionate and caring. Over time, they establish a bond of trust and friendship with their clients which, over time, goes a long way in lifting their mood.

If your mom feels stressed about having a stranger in the house, you should consider a tryout during the holiday season, while you are still around. Bringing a caregiver in while you are still present could reduce the strangeness she feels until she gets used to the new situation.

Learn more: 

How can I figure out if my loved ones are still OK living on their own?

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