We have all heard the phrase 'a dog's for life, not just for Christmas'. Many families decide to buy their children puppies (or other pets) as a Christmas present but, after the holiday is over, realise just how much responsibility owning a dog is, and end up abandoning them because it is to much work to look after. As a result, a lot of rehoming charities will not re-home animals during the festive season.
But dogs are not the only ones in need of some love. Christmas can be a very lonely time of year for people without families; this is especially true for the elderly, who might find it more difficult to get out and about, and socialise.
Around Christmas, we seem to become particularly more charitable than around the rest of the year, and do a lot of volunteering, perhaps at soup kitchens, charity shops, collecting donations, and even visiting those in need of a companion. Lots of new friends can be made through doing this, but once the New Year comes, we tend to forget about them and go back to our regular routine.
Why is this? Just because Christmas is over, it does not mean the lonely are going to get any less lonely. Remember, a friend is for life, not just for Christmas.
We shouldn't abandon dogs, and we shouldn't abandon friends, so if you decide to be charitable this Christmas, consider continuing your work into 2014. Work is actually the wrong word, because taking the time to say hello to a friend should not be considered a chore.
Invite them round for lunch.
So what can you do to bring a bit of happiness into a lonely person's life? Here are some suggestions:
1. Pay them a surprise visit - Every now and then pop in to see how they are doing. Ask if they need anything, such as help with the shopping, a shoulder to cry on, or just a good chin wag.
2. Invite them over for tea - If your friend is on a low budget, inviting someone to tea can ensure them a good meal, as well as a chance to socialise.
3. Take them on a day out - The elderly, depressed, and disabled can sometimes find getting out of the house a struggle, and feel like prisoners in their own home. Take them out for the day for some fresh air at a park, culture at a museum, or lunch at a cafe.
4. Write to them - we are all busy, an may not be able to see someone as often as well like, but you can keep in touch by writing a letter. Try writing it out by hand rather than sending an email; it's more personal.
5. Volunteer - If you don't know anyone who needs a friend, join a befriending scheme, which will help point you in the next direction.
I plan on doing exactly that in the new year. I love helping people, especially elderly, and have seen how lonely they can get, even in a busy nursing home. Most, if not all, elderly people just want someone to talk to. I recently completed a double Cert III in Aged and Community Care and had to complete a mandatory 90 hours of practical experience in a nursing home, which I did enjoy, but also made me very sad for the residents who had no family or friends visiting them at all in the two and a half weeks I was there. As I was there doing work experience, I was given some latitude with the amount of time I spent with the residents I was responsible for on that particular day, but I know most nurses/AINs etc just don't have that time to give them on a daily basis because of the amount of work they have to do in the small amount of time they have. I loved talking to the residents and finding out about their lives and quickly bonded with many of them. Unfortunately it made me very reluctant to pursue work in a nursing home environment which has also limited my employment options, but I know I would really struggle not being able to spend time with residents who only want for someone to talk to. Mandy E.
P.S. the link youput in your story was for an English volunteer group, which isn't very helpful for us in Australia