Holiday Safety: How to Keep Seniors Healthy and Happy – A Guide for Senior Living Communities

SeniorHolidaySafety

A senior living community should feel like home to those who live there. And while this is important year-round, it is even more so during the holiday season, when people of all ages struggle with the pressure to be “merry and bright.” On top of that, many seniors deal with feelings of loss, loneliness, and depression as they recall special memories and traditions of days gone by. Indeed, for residents of senior communities, the holidays can be a bittersweet time.

DispatchHealth understands the challenges you face in helping the residents of your community navigate the challenges of the “most wonderful time of the year.” In addition to meeting their non-emergency healthcare needs, we can help you keep them safe, healthy, and happy during the holidays and always. Here are some ideas to inspire the festivities and create new traditions in your community:

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Decorations

Consider the photographs, artwork, knickknacks, furniture, and other items your residents specifically chose to bring with them when they moved into your facility. Each item tells a story about the owner’s personal history. Holiday decorations can be especially important in that regard; for many seniors, those objects trigger fond memories of past family celebrations and also inspire hope for the future. It’s not the physical items that pack the punch, but rather the traditions surrounding them.

Unfortunately, due to the need to downsize when relocating to an assisted living facility—coupled with the fact that holiday items are only used for a short time each year—many residents leave behind their treasured decorations. You can help by making decorating a central part of your holiday festivities; many of your residents will likely enjoy and appreciate it.

Invite All Residents, Family Members, Friends, Everyone!

The holiday season spans several weeks, so there’s no need to rush or do everything at once. Consider scheduling several small events—either in person, if your community visitor policy permits, or via FaceTime/videothat your residents, their families, and friends can participate in as they choose, such as:

  • Making decorations

  • Hanging decorations

  • Making and/or wrapping gifts

  • Exchanging gifts

  • Singing carols

When planning these events, talk with the residents about their holiday memories and draw upon each individual’s unique skillsets and hobbies. Allow the residents to decide what type of decorations to make, then (if they wish) take them shopping for the necessary materials. Have the residents teach each other, as well as their family members and friends. Some seniors might feel useless or burdensome if they can’t participate in holiday festivities as fully as they once did. Encourage them to do whatever they can, and remind them that their contributions are valued and appreciated.

Finally, you’ll want to have a party to spread some holiday cheer. Meeting new people and having positive interactions with staff members can help create a home-like atmosphere for your residents. The holidays are a wonderful time to create opportunities for meaningful social activities for people in communities.

To minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during your gathering, be sure to:

  • Keep it small (a maximum of 10 people is best)

  • Require all attendees to wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth

  • Ask everyone to follow social-distancing guidelines by maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet between themselves and others

  • Encourage frequent hand-washing and place bottles of hand sanitizer in easily accessible locations

Watch for Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression believed to be triggered by a change in seasons. In many cases, the symptoms become apparent right after the holidays. If you notice that a senior seems to be a little off, it could be just the winter blues—or it could be something more serious, such as SAD. Common signs of SAD include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness

  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed

  • Low energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Oversleeping or insomnia

  • Irritability

  • Weepiness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

These symptoms should be brought to the attention of a medical professional, who can determine the cause and suggest treatment, if necessary.

Partner With DispatchHealth

As the nation’s first comprehensive in-home medical care provider, DispatchHealth specializes in bringing hospital-level care to our patients’ living rooms—including those patients who live in senior living communities. Our proven approach to high acuity, in-home care not only improves patient outcomes but also reduces medical costs. Our mobile teams have the skills, equipment, and medications necessary to immediately address many of the most common reasons why an assisted living resident might call 911, such as mental confusion, general pain, swelling, upset stomach, dehydration, and flu.

You can feel confident that DispatchHealth prioritizes the safety and well-being of our patients and team members. We closely follow the latest infection control guidelines communicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What’s more, our clinicians use appropriate personal protection equipment, and our vehicles and medical equipment are thoroughly sanitized after each visit.

If you would like to explore a partnership with DispatchHealth, contact us today. We sincerely wish you, your staff, and your residents the very best this holiday season and always.

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/older-adults-and-depression#pub5

Max Cowan

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