Once again, the holidays are upon us. Along with the promise of joy and the opportunity to count our many blessings this year, the holidays come with an extraordinary challenge. Seniors and those with compromised immune systems are homebound more than ever before and are severely limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, there were approximately 2 million seniors in the United States that were homebound due to frailty and illness. Since March of 2020, that estimate has risen to well over 7 million.
For those who are homebound, the risk of depression and anxiety is increased during the holidays, so it is crucial to recognize the importance of socialization for seniors during this time. It is easy for housebound seniors to feel that they have been forgotten and don’t matter while all those around them celebrate.
As a caregiver, family member, friend, or neighbor, there are things that you can do to help a housebound senior keep family traditions and enjoy the holiday season.
10 Activities for Homebound Seniors
Meet your loved one or friend where they are. If they are ill, frail, or living with any form of cognitive impairment, you will need to adjust any activity accordingly. Engaging with a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s over the holidays can be extra meaningful. Also, be willing for the activity to take a turn sometimes it may turn out that you will just sit with your person listening to music or watching a show together. Be willing to be flexible.
Let’s get down to it. The holidays can be lots of fun, even when homebound. The time spent with your loved ones, having them feel included, and providing a loving presence is really what it is all about. It is not so much what you do with your loved one, but the spirit and sense of care and love that your presence provides. Yet, getting crafty and playful can still be fun.
Here are 10 fun holiday activities to inspire you and your loved one(s) this holiday season that can be tailored based on your loved one’s physical and cognitive abilities:
- Make a wreath. This can be as simple or complex as you decide. You can start from scratch or buy one and add a few meaningful ornaments.
- Make ornaments. Many people love their ornaments. They collect them and even have made a tradition of getting together to make them. Ornaments can be simple, here’s a secret, they even come in kits.
- Talk. Ask questions and interview your loved one. If your loved one is up for it, ask them to tell you about their life. Ask about what they have learned and what is important to them. Your loved one may have some interesting opinions on the given circumstances. Consider some example questions to ask your aging loved one during COVID-19. Be a witness to the very unique life in front of you. For extra credit, ask them if you can record the conversation. Your family may find it fascinating in days to come.
- Listen to music. Is your loved one a music lover? Talk music, play music, dance, and/or sing together. Music has been said to lift the mood and improve cognitive health, and dancing can improve brain health as well! Find a recording of their favorite symphony online and watch it together. Make sure the music that they love is readily available for them.
- Play games together. If your loved one has a history of game playing, find one that they enjoy and try it out. There are card games for those with mild cognitive impairment and playing cards with large fonts that help those with visual impairment. There are also cardholders for those who have difficulty holding playing cards.
- Do a puzzle. They are all the rage these days. They come in all sizes with various levels of difficulty. Get one (or two) that has an image that delights your loved one. Set aside an afternoon to make some snacks and tea (or any other favored beverage) and have at it. Helpful hint: get a board big enough for the puzzle so that you can move it off the table if need be.
- Bake or cook. There are those families who talk a sweet line about food. Some even know their way around the kitchen. If your loved one fits this category, get them into the kitchen and have them bake or cook something that they love. If they are unable to do it easily, you can do the lion’s share of the work and make the best gingerbread cookies ever while letting them boss you around. Even if you have ready-made dough and use cookie cutters, find a way to get them into the kitchen. Ask them for their favorite recipes and write them down. Bonus thought, make a recipe book of your loved one’s best and most favorite dishes.="5">
- Shop online. Be a shopping elf for your loved one. Your loved one may want to go shopping but are homebound. What to do? Put on a silly hat and get online with them and go shopping. Technology is often challenging to the most capable of seniors. Having someone sit with them while they buy their grandchildren holiday gifts can save the holidays for many.
- Gift wrap party. Once all the gifts that you ordered have arrived, get the wrapping paper, ribbons, tape, stickers, boxes, and cards together and get wrapping. There is no perfection in gift wrapping, just have fun. P.S. You can also include snacks and beverages.
- Holiday cards. Get some holiday cards and help your loved one write them to the people that they want to send a holiday greeting to. If they are able to do that themselves offer to help them address and stamp the cards and mail them for them.
This year is a poignant one in many ways, so many are homebound and severely limited in who they can see. If you are taking care of an elderly person or have one in your family or know someone who is alone and in need of some attention. Consider taking all the necessary precautions so that you can be with your loved one with confidence and ease, and bring the holidays home to them. The gift you give of time, love, and attention makes all the difference. Happy and healthy holidays to all!