The Sydney North Primary Health Network(SNPHN) are putting the message out this holiday season to make sure you check in with elderly members of your community who can sometimes be forgotten over Christmas and New Year.
“Christmas and the New Year period can be can be a time of extreme loneliness for some elderly people in our community,” said Sydney North Primary Health Network CEO Lynelle Hales. “Experiences of loss and bereavement can be heightened during this period and the hot weather can have serious health and medical impacts.”
Older people can experience a greater level of isolation and loneliness during the Christmas period, as many home visit and community services are not available over this time, or are reduced to essential services, exacerbating the issue.
Health professionals acknowledge a direct link between loneliness and the following health conditions which are common in our elderly residents – Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, obesity, increased vascular resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep disorders, diminished immunity, reduction in independent living, alcoholism, depression, and suicidal states.
Isolating Factors for our elderly population over the festive season might include:
Mobility is often a factor hindering interaction due to concerns of falling. Help elderly people overcome these challenges by making sure access to their property and home is safe. Suggest using support services such as community transport, or discounted taxi vouchers where possible. Home modifications may also be available via myagedcare to assist elderly people to move around safely within their home including bathroom modifications, ramps, and aids. Also consider talking to you GP about a falls prevention assessment for your home. Your local GP can refer you to a number of available services to assist with this assessment.
Older people are among those most at risk of heat-related illness. Due to normal age-related changes in the body, older people do not always recognise that they are over-heated. In addition, older people are more likely to have a chronic medical condition and could be taking medication that may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate fluid. Here is a great guide from the Department of Social Services on how to care for elderly people in the warmer weather – CLICK HERE. Hydration and keeping the home cool is central to this care.
Remember if the elderly person lives on their own, it may be difficult for them to adjust to a room full of people. Attending an event with noise and movement, combined with an altered routine has the potential to make them feel anxious. It is important to dedicate quiet time to sit and speak to them individually; providing a cup of tea or mince tart could simply be enough for them.
Loneliness and Depression
Christmas is a time for friends and family, but many older people spend more time reflecting on people they’ve lost at this time of year. In amongst all the excitement and energy of Christmas, it’s important to stay connected with older friends, relatives, and neighbours who are finding it difficult to stay engaged. You can ensure they still feel respected and an important member of the community. Help them attend their family get-togethers, and involve them in trips to Christmas activities such as carols and concerts.
There are numerous health services available for elderly people to call over the Christmas period.
In the After Hours period you can phone for a home visiting doctor service. They will visit you or a member of your family in your home. Some services offer bulk billing while others require a gap payment. Some Private Health Insurers may also provide a free GP-to-home service to their members.
National Home Doctor Service
Dementia Support Australia
After Hours Palliative Care Services
1300 968 737
1800 200 422
13 11 14
1800 699 799 (24hrs)
1800 548 225 (5pm -9am)