Article by guest author, Lily Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If we learnt anything from our last lockdown, it is the importance of companionship, especially for our elderly loved ones. But, with winter fast approaching us, we face the challenge of finding ways to keep in contact with older relatives and friends whilst staying inside to keep away from the cold. During the summer months, it was easy to organise a socially distanced outside visit in your loved ones garden or to simply embark on a walk. With the pandemic still prominent and social distancing guidelines set to be in place for the foreseeable future, you may need to rethink ways in which you can provide companionship this winter.
1. Providing your loved one with regular social opportunities
For many, cold winter days make it easy to stay in bed under a blanket watching TV or reading a book. Whilst both of these are perfectly fine to do from time to time, staying alone for long periods of time can be awful for mental health- especially if a person already has cognitive difficulties such as dementia. It is important to keep your loved one’s engaged with others to strengthen their mental health and exercise skills such as memory, speaking and movement. One good way to ensure that your loved one is partaking in social activities is to set them up in a care home that provides regular group activities with staff and other older people.
2. Try to initiate video calls
At first, it may be difficult to run a video call with your relative as new technology can often be challenging for those who do not have much experience with it. However, many carers will be happy to help your relative start their call and will even stay by their side in case of any technical difficulties. Apps such as FaceTime and Zoom make it easy to call a loved one from their home. Seeing the face of someone you love is a great way to raise spirits and to keep the strong relationship that is needed during these uncertain times.
3. Ask their local community for help
If your loved one is living alone and you struggle to make the trip regularly due to other life commitments, it may be a good idea to ask their neighbours, friends or other members of their local community to check in on them every now and then. It is important to make sure that people are around to help when needed and to notice any worrying changes that may occur with your loved one at this time of year. Having a neighbour check in on them will also stop your loved one from feeling isolated and will provide them with a friendly face to turn to if they need assistance.
4. Keep them involved
The pandemic makes it challenging to incite your loved one around for your normal Christmas celebrations but, this doesn’t mean that they have to miss out of all the festive fun! Consider organising Christmas themed Zoom quizzes with the whole family, Facetime them whilst you decorate your tree or open presents together over Skype. This way, your loved one will still have festive activities to look forward to which will raise their spirits and make them feel involved.
5. Bake them some festive treats
It is a well-known fact that food is the key to everyone’s heart and can bring joy even in the hardest times. Bring your loved one some festive joy this year by baking them a Christmas cake or some festive cookies. The time and thought that is put into baking will reassure them that you are thinking of them and they will certainly appreciate the gift. You could even sit down for a slice of cake together over zoom!
6. Consider an in-home caregiver
If you live far away from your loved one, it might be difficult to maintain regular contact over the Christmas period. Having visits from a familiar face is so important when it comes to making your relative feel safe and secure in their environment, personal connections also help to maintain conversation abilities and memory in older people. If you are worried about your loved one being alone this Christmas, you could look into hiring an at-home carer. Home carers are people who provide all the services received in a care home but bring them into your loved one’s personal home. A home carer is a great option if you do not want to place your loved one into a home but still want them to receive regular care and assistance.
7. Offer your time
If you feel passionate about helping the elderly feel less lonely this winter, you can volunteer as a companion yourself. Charities such as Age UK are always keen to take on volunteers who help to look after older people in the community and act as a friendly face for those who live alone. Volunteering is a great way to spread festive joy this winter and to improve the lives of others.