For many people, the season that brings Thanksgiving and Christmas is the most “wonderful time of the year.” The holidays are filled with delicious food, vacation from work, and quality time with family and friends. And don’t forget about the gifts.
But for some, the holidays can trigger stress, anxiety, loneliness, health problems, and even depression. The “holiday blues” can be a real issue for someone of any age, but sometimes especially for the elderly or anyone living alone.
If you have loved ones who experience these feelings of sadness or unfulfillment during the holidays, it’s important to know that you can help. Consider these issues as you try to make the holidays a time of laughter, love and good health for your loved one.
Maintaining a Healthy Holiday Diet
Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. These are the staple foods for most families during the holidays. While it may be permissible for your loved one with dietary restrictions to indulge in some of these, moderation is key.
Ensuring that your loved one gets to dig into some of these holiday favorites requires some planning, organization, and willpower. You’ll want to be well acquainted with your loved one’s dietary restrictions, medicine schedule, food allergies and other limitations.
Plan the rest of their meals during the holiday weeks around the big family feast so that they aren’t consuming too many of the foods that should be limited.
Have your loved one drink plenty of fluids to stay healthy during the holidays. To make it easier to stay hydrated, make sure they have access to plenty of water at home and bottled water during travel or time away from home.
Fostering the Holiday Spirit
Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but for some people they are quite the opposite. For some older loved ones, especially those living alone, the holidays are a reminder of loss, loneliness or difficult family situations. In extreme cases, depression can set in.
There are several reasons for developing depression during the holidays – social isolation, grieving the loss of a loved one, breakdown of family traditions, adult children moving away, or family disputes. People experiencing these feelings often withdraw from holiday gatherings or take their feelings out on others.
If you are the primary caregiver, chances are high that you can identify some of the potential triggers for these feelings, and help to offset them.
Think of new and creative ways to help your loved one enjoy the holidays – taking them out to dinner, to a movie, a holiday concert or play, or a tour of Christmas lights. Or, maybe your loved one prefers to maintain their regular daily routine without the holiday disruption. Doing what’s best for them is the key to helping them remain healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Holiday Travel Considerations
Depending on the health of the elderly, holiday gatherings may take place somewhere other than where they are currently living. That could mean potential logistics that need to be identified and addressed in advance.
One thing to consider is whether your older loved one will still participate in preparing for the meal or decorating. Most families have those special recipes that have been handed down throughout the years. Maybe your loved one was known for their special dish but can no longer prepare it due to health issues.
Consider including them by having their watch you prepare it, ask their opinion about it, or let them know how much you’ve valued their contributions through the years.
If your loved one will be traveling for the holiday gatherings, give these issues some thought:
- Have all medications needed and take an extra supply, just in case the holiday outing lasts longer or takes an unexpected change
- Have appropriate clothing and necessary hygiene items
- Have something to eat and drink, just in case of a delay
- If traveling long distances, allow your loved one plenty of time to rest before, during and after travel
- After your loved one returns home, you – or a home care professional – should consider spending some extra time with activities like shopping, running errands, returning gifts to the store, cooking or other household chores.
With a little planning and awareness, the holidays can be a joyous experience for your loved one and the whole family. Don’t forget to ask your loved one their preferences about how to spend the holidays, instead of making all the decisions for them.