We all know the two sides to this time of year – the fun part, including the anticipation of seeing loved ones and spending quality time, enjoying children’s excitement, cooking and eating together and the general good spirits of the holidays.
The other side is the stress of too much to do, too many rich food choices, disruption of exercise routines. For seniors, it is a bit more complicated and a little harder to “bounce back” from the change in routine.
Remember that your older family members may have more limitations this year that are not necessarily obvious. It’s tricky – we don’t want to assume things have changed but we need to be vigilant so we do our best to create an environment of ease, with lots of rest and breaks in the action!
Here are some ideas to be proactive and help everyone stay as balanced as possible. You might want to talk with your other family members about these relatively simple ideas to help make the holidays less stressful.
Consider timing – having a big dinner? Perhaps lunch can be salad or a bowl of soup. Dietary restrictions? Many of us, at all ages, have limitations due to physical conditions, medications, weight concerns – know this about members of the older generation in your family and make it easy for them by taking this into consideration when meal planning.
Assuming that your loved one can walk around the block – suggest a short walk once or twice a day. It will get them out of the house, into fresh air, and keep them mobile (it will help you, too!)
People on a fixed income may find it stressful to try and bring gifts for everyone at a gathering. Maybe suggest a “Secret Santa” amongst your family members or a grab bag. That way, only one or two gifts need to be purchased. Or decide to only gift the children in the family and decide in advance who will purchase for whom.
Even if Mom and Dad manage their own medication, in the excitement and chaos of the gathering, they might forget. Try and be aware of their medication routine and offer private and gentle reminders.
Almost everyone is pushed to their limits during the holidays in terms of energy. More so with an older adult. Be sensitive and notice signs that Mom or Dad may be fading or needs a break. Discreetly ask them if they’d like a little “time out” in a quieter room for awhile. Or invite them for a private conversation in another part of the house. Even a 15-minute break in the action can be helpful.
Water and Alcohol
Monitor intake of both of these! More water, less alcohol is probably the best advice. Again, remember to be sensitive when trying to encourage – they are adults and can make their own decisions. If Mom has been drinking two or three cocktails every day for forty years, now is not the time to try and get her to change. Use compassion and good judgment.
Although we always talk about how healing familiar music can be, stay aware of the overall noise level. Depending on the size of your gathering, the combination of talking, laughing, multiple conversations, excited children can create quite a din. Add music on top of that and it can feel like chaos, which for some people is just too much stimulation. Be sensitive and monitor the sound level!
Change the Ritual
Grandma always hosts the traditional holiday dinner? This kind of hosting can be very stressful. Maybe consider having one of the younger generation host or, if Grandma really wants it to be at her home, make sure younger ones contribute by preparing part (or most) of the meal, setting the table, cleaning up.
A little thoughtfulness can go a long way!