It might be difficult to see your elderly loved one at Christmas, but there are things you can do to make sure they don’t face the festive season alone.

Arranging care for the holidays

450,000 elderly people in the UK are facing the holiday season alone. However, there is support available so that no one needs to suffer the sadness of a solitary Christmas.

Christmas can be a time for laughter, celebration and joy. But for the bereaved and lonely elderly, it can also be a time of sadness and isolation.

Dementia, disability and disease together with friends and relatives being torn in different directions, can mean that too many people are facing a lonely festive season. However, there is support out there to bring some holiday cheer. As Age UK says, ‘no one should have no one at Christmas’. So, if you are, or someone you love is facing Christmas alone, don’t suffer in silence.

Community spirit

There are usually a number of community Christmas events where you can celebrate with others.

The Salvation Army organises Christmas lunches, carol services and sing-songs. They will also arrange visits for vulnerable elderly people and offer comfort and companionship to those who are lonely and distressed during the holiday season.

Most local religious groups will offer support and celebrations that are appropriate to your individual religious beliefs.

Community Christmas is a charity that believes no elderly person should be alone on Christmas Day, unless they want to be. They are supporting communities to provide social events, with food, drink and entertainment. It could be a chance to reconnect with old friends or forge new friendships, providing cheer that should last well past the 25th of December.

Help at home

Consider employing a carer to come into the home to provide holiday help, and perhaps some mince pies and a friendly chat.

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The level of support can respond to each individual’s needs. From just a few hours to help prepare a meal and clean up the house, to live-in caregivers who can support your loved one in the comfort of their own home, throughout the holiday period. A carer can mean that you can get some rest and respite, knowing they’re safe.

If you require a carer over the festive season, a hometouch Care Advisor is available even on Christmas day!

Befriending services

Age UK and Friends of the Elderly offer a friendly chat and a listening ear to elderly people who feel lonely, throughout the year. These can be face-to-face, or on the telephone. This contact and companionship can be a real lifeline during the winter months, when it is even more difficult to get out and about.

Contact the Elderly is a charity dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people. They arrange monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups, offering a regular and vital friendship link. At Christmas, the events can become even more festive and fun.

Residential respite

A short period of replacement care in a residential home can be a good option over the Christmas period.

Care homes are usually beautifully decorated at this time of year and there are any number of activities to entertain and amuse. With lots of people around, they should be able to get the care they need in a social environment.

Not just turkey

If the main problem is meal preparation, then a home carer can provide light bites and can also eat together with your loved one.

Alternatively, you could arrange a meal service to deliver hot or frozen meals, even on Christmas Day. The original provider was Meals on Wheels and it’s still going strong today, however there are also lots of local specialist services, so check out the options in your area.

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Virtually there

Remember that in today’s technological world, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch.

Even if you can’t be with a loved one at Christmas, you can pick up the phone or Skype. That way, they can see the grandchildren opening their stockings, or pulling crackers and share in the family fun.

Research shows that actually having friends and family in contact is more important in warding off loneliness than the number of visits.

With some planning, preparation and understanding you can all have a happy and healthy holiday season.

Let me pass on all my very best festive wishes.

Find out more:

Dr Jane Gilbert

Jane has over 20 years’ experience as a health writer and TV presenter. Jane writes on a wide variety of clinical and care topics – from explaining the latest studies and research to unpacking conditions and discussing treatment options. Jane holds a MBBS degree from Imperial College, London and spent seven years working in the NHS.

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