For many of us, the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving. This year people will be traveling again to visit friends and loved ones they may not have been able to see last year. While all of this is generally fun, there are times when it can get stressful. Here are some ideas to lighten the load.
Before we get to the decorating and other activities, here are 3 suggestions for taking a moment to unwind during this busy holiday season:
Create a quiet, safe space – a room where anyone can go to take a break and get away from the mayhem.
Allow for Some Downtime – be sure to take a break for yourself whether it’s before breakfast or before bed, take time to catch your breath and recharge. It’s easier to enjoy the holidays when you get a break.
Be Flexible – remember the whole point of being together is enjoying the time you have together. It’s OK if everything doesn’t get done. You’re with loved ones, so relax and enjoy the moment.
2. It’s the Food
Eating healthy is important for people of all ages but especially seniors. Poor choices can be particularly bad and can cause immediate problems for people with certain types of medical issues. High blood pressure, congestive heart failure, or diabetes need to be considered when we are meal planning, or deciding how much of a good thing is enough! It’s great to know your guests and build some thought into the meal. Use less salt, use foods with a lower glycemic index, and don’t keep passing the potatoes to uncle Bob for seconds if he’s about to pop his suspenders!
Some types of choices to consider:
- Choose turkey over ham
- Sweet potatoes instead of russet potatoes
- Whole wheat buns instead of white bread
Don't underestimate the importance of hydration. Drinking water helps flush the body of toxins, replenish electrolytes, and decrease the risk of dehydration. Often the house warms up while we cook our festive meals and increases the need to keep hydrating. Have some good festive drinks available like a cider or an alcohol-free drink. Drinking alcoholic drinks can be acceptable if there aren’t any medical concerns--just don’t overdo it!
3. Deck the Halls!
If your loved one lives independently, try to keep the holiday decorating how they like it.
- Play holiday music while you decorate to set a festive mood--it’s easier than ever to find old-time music online. Maybe make hot cider or hot chocolate. Great memories are often brought on from scent.
- Make children a part of the rituals if the elders enjoy that and the children can participate--everyone develops a great memory!
- Use your parents' treasured holiday decorations. Talk about each piece as you pull it out of storage. If the elders cannot be active in decorating their home, ask questions. Where would they like the ornaments placed? This is especially important if the person now primarily resides in his or her recliner. Put favorite items where they can easily be seen and enjoyed the most.
- You can help with holiday cards or rituals. Your help in addressing envelopes can be a boost to their morale. You may need to help by signing the cards. This helps them keep in touch with old friends.
- Be on the lookout for cards and other news they receive from old friends. Often, the news they receive is not good. Someone's spouse has died or is very ill. Someone else is now in a nursing facility and not adjusting well. Cancer has returned to a special friend. You get the picture.
- Also, ask about phone calls. Did they get a call from so and so? What is going on? Watch for signs of sadness and even depression over news from old friends. Perhaps your company is especially needed on a certain day.
- If possible, have the festive meals at your home, or plan to cook at your elders. Take the load of being a host off their plate. Make sure they have leftovers from the meals if they enjoy that. Many facilities have a party room you can rent for that large gathering.
- Offer to shop for and wrap gifts they want to give to friends and family or teach them about online shopping.
- Help them scale down and simplify in ways that could make their holidays less stressful, but don't emphasize their losses. Ask what they want, and try to make it happen to the best of your ability.
Encourage your loved one to tell stories of the past. It's a great idea to video these stories so you can archive them for your family and share them for years to come.
4. Stocking Stuffers
Lastly, there is no need to go overboard on gifts during the holiday season – your company is most likely the most desired item – that you can provide in abundance! If you want to top off the stocking with a small item or two, think of buying something personalized at a local small shop, or online at a website like Etsy.
As you can tell, the central theme of these tips is including seniors and engaging them throughout the holiday season. This is a core pillar of our Interactive Caregiving philosophy.