7 Ways to Keep the Holiday Blues at Bay

family with elder in kitchen

Do your older loved ones enjoy the holiday season less than they used to? Add in COVID-19 and the fact that you might not be able to celebrate together in-person this year, and the holiday blues can really dampen their spirits.

Whether your elderly loved ones live alone or far away from family, they’re worried about the financial aspect, they can’t physically take part in activities they used to love, or social distancing guidelines prevent in-person celebrations, these seven ideas can help you boost their mood.

Make Life Easier

Talk with each other about making the annual celebration easier, especially in light of the pandemic. If you and your older loved ones live close to each other and are in the same “bubble,” you might decide that it’s safe to spend the holidays together. If the festivities usually take place at your loved one’s home, simplify things by asking a family member to handle the decoration set-up and getting the big meal catered.

Slow the Spending

If money’s tight, your loved one might feel sad about not being able to participate in gift exchanges or send holiday cards. You can help them budget and come up with alternatives — figure out which holiday expenses are most important and whether they can be added in. Talk about making gifts instead of buying them, or work out a gift plan with the whole family — White Elephant or a Secret Santa gift exchange instead of buying for everyone. You can also encourage e-cards or video chatting with friends and family instead of mailing cards.

Start New Traditions

Why not switch things up this year? Start something new that your loved one will enjoy. Find an accessible light display or organize a day of holiday baking or crafting. If you live far away from each other and aren’t able to travel, order a local treat to be delivered to them or, if you’re feeling ambitious, whip up their favorite (nonperishable) holiday treat and overnight it to them.

Leave Room for Downtime

Remember that sleep and quiet times to rest and recharge are essential. Make sure your loved one is getting enough downtime and, when you’re together, build it into your day.

Lend a Hand

If you and your loved one are comfortable being around each other, help out around their house whenever or however you can, both with chores and special holiday tasks. Perhaps wrapping presents is an important tradition, but Dad can’t use his hands for long periods of time. Or, maybe Mom has a favorite holiday recipe, but can no longer manage certain tasks in the kitchen. Lend an extra hand — it can create a great bonding experience, too.

Acknowledge Loss

The holidays can be especially difficult for someone who has lost a spouse, partner, or close friend or family member. It can be hard to know if you should bring up that person’s name and old memories, or if you should avoid the subject altogether. Before the holidays, discuss it with your loved one and pay attention to how they react. Then, you can let others know how to handle the situation and minimize any awkward moments or unwanted conversation.

Celebrate Others

This is a great time to honor others, so if your loved one is okay with acknowledging the loss of someone who was special to them, there are many ways you can celebrate the person who passed away. Tell stories or share happy memories, display old pictures or make a photo album, or suggest lighting a special candle each day. 

The holidays can be stressful for anyone, but there are many different aspects that can be particularly overwhelming for your older family members — especially in these anxiety-inducing COVID-19 times. This year, instead of letting the blues get everyone down, use these seven tips to help your loved ones put some joy back into the holiday season and, if you can, enjoy some quality time together.