Palm Beach Angels Healthy Aging & Home Care Blog

MAKE THE HOLIDAYS HEALTHIER AND HAPPIER NO MATTER WHAT YOUR AGE!

Happy Healthy Holidays with SeniorsWondering how to keep the holiday season safe & stress-free? The holidays are a time when families gather to celebrate the traditions of the season, but when loved ones are frail or suffer from chronic illnesses, holidays can be challenging. Here are some helpful guidelines to ensure the season is fun and festive for the entire family including senior parents, grandparents and older loved ones!

Food and Drink

Moderation is best. If family members manage their dietary restrictions and alcohol intake, as well as their medications, everyone will manage to have a good time. Alcohol can be hazardous for Seniors, bring on depression and confusion, cause interactions with prescriptions, trigger falls and irregular heartbeat. Dietary restrictions do not have to dampen your holidays! All it takes is a little extra nutritional planning and preparation, watching your salt and sugar intake, counting your calories, and staying active.

  • Enjoy small portions of a few traditional favorites while sticking with healthier item like vegetable side dishes
  • Go for the main course but skip the dip, gravy, butter, sour cream and mayo, etc.
  • Pick fresh fruit for dessert over cake, cookies, ice cream and pie
  • Stick with sparkling water, or choose low-calorie drinks    
  • If your physician allows you to drink alcohol, limit the amount, and have it with food

Health & Medical Issues

Family members travelling to spend the holidays with you should make you aware ahead of time about any health issues or illnesses, or recent medical procedures. Be sure to remind them to pack their prescriptions and medical supplies, and bring a contact list of their doctors along just in case something happens during their holiday visit. Be sure everyone in the household knows the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke.

  • Be sure all medications on a regular schedule (no excuses) and pack extra doses if travelling out of town
  • Get exercise, even if it is only yoga in a chair, or taking a walk after a meal
  • Remind diabetic loved ones to check their blood sugar more often if changing their routine over the holidays, and provide “healthy” snacks in addition to holiday favorites; keep glucose gel, or tablets on hand
  • Rest often and get a good night's sleep

Holiday activities for seniors and elderlySafety

Physical limitations, including poor eyesight and hearing, can lead to impaired mobility which creates safety issues. Be sure to remove potential trip and fall hazards, and dangerous holiday decorations in advance of any family festivities. Remember those with Parkinson’s struggle with balance, and those with dementia or Alzheimer’s are in danger of losing their way or “wandering.” Older adults move at a slower pace – be patient - do not rush them. Do not try to force anyone into an activity beyond their capacity.

Activities

Schedule the important activities earlier in the day to avoid fatigue. Non-stop holiday shopping and celebrating can exhaust the elderly and disorient seniors especially if they are cognitively or physically impaired. The holidays can be particularly challenging when it comes to entertaining relatives who are frail, and perhaps cognitively or physically impaired. Keep in mind that meaningful activities can provide stimulation while promoting a feeling of usefulness, which can raise spirits and keep them from withdrawing. Remember to concentrate on the process, not the results, and enjoy the time spent on it! Suggestions include: 

  • Play or listen to holiday music, sing holiday songs, watch holiday movies (or just “golden oldies”)
  • Paint, or draw and color holiday images, make holiday themed collages with meaningful items
  • Organize sentimental items and trinkets into boxes – elicit the story they have to tell
  • Look at old photo albums or old home movies you transferred to DVDs
  • Read the daily newspaper, a hobby or sports magazine, or a favorite book to your loved one
  • Walk in the park or along the boardwalk at the beach, try some chair yoga together
  • Work on simple puzzles and crosswords, or play board games, card games, Bingo!
  • Bake something simple that smells good in the kitchen, do it together
  • Tend to the garden or cut and arrange flowers for the holiday table

Remember the greatest gift is the gift of your time, no matter what the season. Pleasurable activities can bring back happy memories and rekindle emotional connections. Activities that encourage self-expression can help those with Alzheimer’s feel more engaged in their environment. Activities that encourage movement can help those with Parkinson’s feel more in control.

Chanukah with Senior spouse or parentsManage Meltdowns With Family Members

There is plenty of stress and confusion with holiday shopping, decorating, cooking special meals and entertaining extended family. Try to imagine what it can do to someone with a mental or physical impairment! If you want to avoid the typical family member holiday meltdown keep the following ideas in mind whether family members, or senior loved ones are visiting you, or vice-versa:

  • Take depression seriously in Seniors, especially around the holidays, when they are feeling emotional and facing physical challenges or the loss of a loved one. Holiday commotion and conflict can cause seniors stress and agitation, especially later in the day. Should a family member become agitated, escort them to a quiet room for a break from all the chaos. Then take a break yourself, the holidays are stressful for caregivers too!
  • Don’t try to get everything done in one short holiday visit, too many doctor appointments or non-stop shopping and holiday activities just overwhelm and exhaust the elderly.
  • Don’t demand decisions or immediate action on touchy topics during the holidays. Avoid sensitive subjects like selling the house or moving to an assisted living facility, unless of course a situation is unsafe.
  • Don’t argue with siblings about what’s best for Mom, Dad, or Grandpa and Grandma. Don’t get frustrated with or be overly critical with family members that disagree or are just trying to help
  • If it’s been a few weeks or months since you’ve seen a loved one and they are showing some cognitive or physical impairment, rather than jump to conclusions, communicate issues and concerns with siblings and the family physician. Symptoms manifested might be due to medications or underlying ailment or illness. An assessment from a healthcare professional could be in order, it might be something other than dementia.

Thanksgiving will soon kick off the holiday season, so be sure your ALL your loved ones are focusing on their health and wellness now so they can enjoy themselves during the festivities ahead. Happy Holidays!

Till Next Time!

Irv Seldin, JD, President and Owner, Visiting Angels of the Palm Beaches

This article is not intended as medical, legal, or financial advice.

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.