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COLUMN: A little effort goes a long way
As we begin the holiday season in earnest, it is easy to be overwhelmed with all that needs to be done.
Over the years, the traditions and expectations have grown and the subsequent work for families have grown, as well.
The elderly have a similar split view to the holidays. It is often a time when family gets together, and so it’s a time for the elderly to connect with children, grandchildren and friends.
That works well for those who are mobile and able to participate, but it creates stress for those who are unable to participate with family and thus feel left out.
The holiday season is a time of great joy when family is around, but also a time of sadness, thinking of those who are no longer able to join in the holiday traditions.
With so many wonderful memories attached to this time of the year, it is a time of humble reflection and a recognition of how time flies.
The loss of spouses is often referred to in terms of the number of Christmases they have been gone.
There is not much we can do to change who has departed, so it’s best to focus on the happy memories when together with family. But there is always something we can do to make the holiday season a little brighter for those who are still with us, even if they are unable to join the family at home.
Cards and notes from family members, especially homemade cards from the little ones, are always a precious gift. Family photos are like gold to the elderly. Include photos anytime you send a card or a letter and you’ll find them posted all around them next time you visit.
Phone, not just on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, but every day you can during the holidays. Have various relatives talk on the phone so that each call is different. You might need to coach the littlest ones, particularly if they don’t really know their great-grandparent, but just the sound of their voice will bring great joy.
Visit, if possible, and bring photos or videos of the events taking place at home. Being unable to attend an event doesn’t mean they can’t share it just by seeing everyone who is there interacting, and if video is done, addressing the person directly.
A little personal greeting on a cell phone video can go a long way in reminding the elderly that they are remembered and loved.
Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org