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Mental health experts say the holidays can lead to loneliness for the elderly

Over the holidays, health experts say it’s important to reach out to a loved one especially if...
Over the holidays, health experts say it’s important to reach out to a loved one especially if you can’t celebrate with them in person.(KY3)
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 6:57 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The holidays can be the happiest and loneliest time of the year for many. COVID-19, isolation and breaking family traditions can impact mental health for the elderly.

Clinical Social Worker for Burrell Behavioral Health Kristen Shuler said the pandemic has taken a toll on how families celebrate the holidays. She said breaking tradition like not gathering for Christmas because of the pandemic can make a huge impact.

Grief of a loved one can also impact a person’s mental health. Seniors also experience loneliness after the holidays because the celebrating is over.

She said over the holidays, it’s important to reach out to a loved one especially if you can’t celebrate with them in person.

”Calling regularly or checking in regularly, not just on Christmas day,” said Shuler. “Being more connected around this time can be really helpful. In terms of if your loved one does express some feelings of being lonely or isolated, really hear them out and validate that instead of kind of trying to change their minds about how they feel really normalize being able to talk about that and to share that openly.”

Shuler said loneliness is detrimental to our health and increases the risk for depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. She said it’s important to do things that will help regulate your mood.

”Eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, exercising, avoiding substance,” said Shuler. “Just focusing on new opportunities, to build new traditions, unplugging from media if it’s something that does become a source of overwhelm and just attending to your own needs overall.”

If you’re unable to meet with loved ones this season, Schuler said to focus on the things you still can do instead of focusing on the things that have become restricted.

“Often sending pictures that maybe the younger generation draws things of that nature and being able to connect remotely. “It may require you to help your loved one navigate some of the technical sides of that. Being able to do things to create new traditions and new ways of doing that making new meaningful memories.”

Burrell recently added a new service called Pathway to Care, which targets mental health for those 55 years and up. Shuler said in the next nine years, every person within the baby boomer generation will be 65 years and older. She said they’re at much higher risk for chronic health conditions and multiple mental health concerns. That’s why there’s a huge need to have providers that are clinically trained to specifically work with older adults.

Home Instead is offering its Be a Santa to a Senior program, where you can adopt a senior in the community and give them a Christmas gift. You can pick out your senior at Harter House on Republic Road. There’s a tree which has a wish list.

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