Holiday Season is Upon Us

Holiday Spirit and StressHoliday season cannot be ignored. The music, television programs, decorations and sales promotions are all around us. Unfortunately with all the joy comes expectations and stress. After all, things do not happen by themselves, or by elves.  Here in Florida, it also a time for out of town visitors – family and friends come for the sunshine at for the holiday. This may means opening your home to out of town guests, which may also include children.  Hopefully many visitors will book hotel rooms so as not to disrupt your routine too much and save you the added chores of shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning and entertaining. All of these things can be quite exhausting for older or elderly parents, especially if a parent has a physical illness or a cognitive one such as Alzheimer’s disease or other Dementia. Conversely, it may be your aging loved ones who are traveling to see you. This is also disruptive to their routine and can be stressful, anxiety provoking and tiring. Fear not, with some planning, a good time can be had by all.

Plan Ahead for Holiday Time

Certainly for folks who are traveling, this is a very busy time of year. Best to book flights or other transportation and hotels early, same with any restaurant holiday meals and other entertainment. Buy presents year round so that shopping is made easier and budgeted. Online shopping is wonderful as many places have gift wrapped deliveries. Certainly if you or your loved one has a special diet or uses medical equipment, this needs to be considered and accommodations made. Perhaps some medical necessities such as a travel wheelchair, bathroom seats, hospital bed, extra safety bars or lighting need to be rented and/or installed. Special diets such as Heart or Diabetic foods should be known about in advance so menu planning can be made easier.  We do a lot to make our family and friends welcome, comfortable and happy during the holidays. Social stresses alone to be joyful and giving are enough to ruffle some feathers.

Make Needs Known and Set Limits

You know what they say about “good intentions”. If you are a family or spousal care partner, the added stress of your routine being changed can be disruptive. Just the changes in noise levels, meal times, going out or having guests in can add to an already busy schedule. For someone with cognitive impairment, the ‘hoopla’ can be very overwhelming.  More people’s names and who they are, to remember, added confusion, family dynamics (and all families have them) among other things can cause changes in your loved one’s behavior. This can then increase the stress on the primary caregiver. Adult sons and daughters, who are not local, rarely see the full picture of their parent’s illness, frailty or decline. They may also deny the changes, or the parent “rallies” for the few days of the visit. It is incumbent on the primary care parent to let all guests know what to expect, limit the time of the big feast and have shorter visits. Let your adult guests know what help you need and what would be too disruptive.  Be matter of fact, kind and direct. After all, the spirit of the holidays is Peace and Love to our fellow humans.  Activities may need to be scaled back.  The desired outcome after all is to spend time together and have an enjoyable holiday.

Tips for a Smooth Holiday Visit

Be considerate; for a lot of people the holidays aren’t just a time of stress, but also loneliness and longing and depression. Holidays evoke a lot of memories with people who may no longer be with us or who are quite incapacitated. Reminisce about loved ones who have passed.

Be patient; emotions and excitement are running high and some folks need more time or have other ideas than you do.

Expectations  – Ha!  Try to be realistic… especially around holiday budgeting.

Plan, plan, plan — and then have a plan B for when things change.

Try not to overdue; delegate things to family members and friends, this also helps them feel included and contributing.

Don’t let the “Perfect be the enemy of the Good”. – Voltaire   Maybe you used to host 20 plus guests and make dozens of dishes, time to tone it down.

Simplify; if you need to hire help either with the cooking or caregiving, do so. You can use paper and plastic to cut back on dishes.

If you have young children visiting, look around your home and put treasured belongings out of reach or away so nothing gets broken.

If getting dressed up is too cumbersome, dress comfortably.

Remind adult sons and daughters of a parent’s diet, medication schedule (if pertinent) and ability level.

Have some things on hand to do with a relative who has some memory impairment.

Don’t not participate in something because it is too much, do what you can.

If there has been a big change since the last time family visited, let them know in advance, they can prepare themselves for what they find.

It is all right if you don’t entertain like you did 30 years ago, who would expect you to?

Consider amount of Alcohol present.

Accept offers of assistance.

Keep explosive topics out of bounds and accentuate the positive things which bind you together. Acknowledge your feelings and those of another.

Tis the time to be thankful for all the positive things and people in your life, which are highlighted at Holiday time.