DEAR ABBY: The holiday season has begun and most people have started planning for family feasts, gifts, home decorating and travel. Not everyone, however, will be able to leave home, enjoy a holiday trip, or be with family and friends. For many people who are frail, elderly, sick and have disabilities, the holidays mean staying home without the festivities enjoyed by others.
May I offer some simple suggestions to brighten the holidays for our homebound neighbors?
1. One way to literally make the holidays brighter is to help replace burned-out lightbulbs inside and outside their homes. This can be extremely helpful for someone who has difficulty standing or turning bulbs in light sockets. (The same is also true for replacing batteries in smoke detectors.)
2. Help with holiday decorations. Because putting up decorations can be difficult for frail elderly people, a little assistance with lights and ornaments that usually remain in boxes could brighten their holidays.
3. Give a holiday gift of nonperishable food items. For elderly individuals on fixed incomes, a special gift of jam, instant hot cereals, fruit or a selection of teas or coffee could be a "luxury."
4. Check to see if the heat inside the home is adequate and that precautions have been taken to ensure that faucets are working during sub-zero temperatures.
5. A lap robe or quilt can be a welcomed gift for someone whose home is not well-insulated or heated when the temperature falls.
Many elderly people find it difficult to ask for something, valuing their self-reliance and independence, even if it means ignoring a need. If you think a homebound neighbor could use assistance or a special gift, please reach out and make the effort to help. -- LINDA MASON, VISITING NURSE ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS
DEAR LINDA: I hope your suggestions will stimulate people to think about how they can help those who have difficulty helping themselves. To your terrific suggestions, I would like to add: Loneliness is the ultimate poverty. If you can, spend some time visiting. For someone who lives alone, the holidays can be a constant reminder of family or friends who are no longer living. A little company can go along way toward easing these feelings of loneliness.
And if you're feeling lonely yourself, consider volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels. Holiday vacations can create a shortage of the volunteers needed to bring meals and human contact to homebound elderly, and those who are sick and disabled. Besides delivering food, the drivers can also provide much-needed holiday cheer. There is no greater "upper" than bringing joy to others.