Caring for the Elderly At Christmas

Last night’s Prime Time on RTE 1 featured urban isolation and loneliness as part of its programme. Many of us presume that isolation to be more of a rural problem, that when older people don’t have their own transport, they can become isolated and lonely within the confines of their own home. However, the programme showed that if older people find it difficult to leave their own home, and visit places where they can meet neighbours and friends, they can experience as much isolation as rural dwellers.

A regular visit to a neighbour who lives on their own can mean so much. Not only are you checking on their health, that they are warm enough, that they haven’t fallen or hurt themselves, that they are well and healthy but you also bring cheer and smiles. Sitting down for a chat over a cup of tea, telling stories, enjoying nostalgia, exchanging news, perhaps playing a game of cards or sharing a crossword, it can really make the day for a person living on their own.

An Irish blogger has been writing about visiting an elderly neighbour every Thursday. She and a friend call to him for a couple of hours, they eat cake and drink many cups of tea, telling each other lots of stories and having a good laugh. It is very evident that she enjoys it as much as the elderly gentleman. As time neared for him to go and live in England, to be with his son’s family, she was just as sad at the prospect of missing these regular Thursday chats as he was.

The enjoyment of these Thursdays was really emphasised when Tric relayed how they asked him one day where he would like to go before he left Ireland. They would drive him to wherever it was, spend the day with him. She wondered what places he would like to visit.  However, his answer surprised them.  He wanted to stay in his own home, he said he was never happier than when they visit and they have a good laugh while exchanging stories. Sitting in his own kitchen, with a mug of tea, listening to them chatter and responding – here was an elderly man who appreciated the small things in life – good company, laughter, warmth, companionship.

Many of us will visit neighbours for Christmas but maybe more of us could make it a new year’s resolution – to call in after Christmas too, to call in at least one day a week, maybe doing a rota with others so that each one calls on a specific day. Checking that your neighbours are safe and well is important but it’s also lovely to bring some cheer into their homes.

The weather forecasters are predicting a very cold snap so vigilance is necessary. Do remember to check that those you are visiting are warm enough, offer to make tea and fill hot water bottles when you are there, check that they aren’t in danger of having water pipes frozen and that draughts are minimised. If you are dropping an elderly person home after an event , do stay with them and ensure they get into the house safely. The risk of slipping on a front path or step are too great and they could be left there for hours with disastrous consequences.

From the team at Comfort Keepers, we wish you all a very merry and safe Christmas and a happy new year.
photo credit: akahodag via photopin cc