The holiday season means gatherings with family and friends. But, for the elderly they can be a source of stress because their usual routine is disrupted. This means their exercise schedules are not consistent, richer food replaces their usual diet, bedtimes are often later, and perhaps they don’t get their afternoon nap or downtime.
This time of year for seniors it’s a challenge to stay both emotionally and physically healthy. To help ease their stress and anxiety, it is a good idea to get everyone involved to help manage their expectations, schedules, activities, and diet.
One of the difficulties is not truly knowing a senior’s limits. You may already be aware that they might need some help, but they often do not tell you how much more they’ve slowed down since last year.
They’re a year older so they may not even be able to do what they could the previous year – so don’t assume that you know all their limitations. Offer them options by asking them what they want to do. By giving them choices you also give them a measure of control, as well as giving them a graceful “out” for activities, and events they may not want to – or be up to – participating in.
Help seniors stay healthy and to avoid the holiday blues by using these helpful tips:
1.) Make Healthy Choices This time of year many overindulge in food from tempting homemade snacks to rich meals. Try to plan meals with the event in mind such as which will be the larger, heavier meal (lunch, or dinner?), what time will it be served (most seniors don’t like to eat too late).
For example, if a big dinner is planned serve a lighter lunch of just salad or soup. Better yet, have the larger meal earlier in the day and serve light but fun appetizers later in the evening. You don’t want to deny anyone the food they like to eat at this time of year, but you also don’t want anyone to suffer the effects of eating too much or too late.
2.) Stay Hydrated
Drinking lots of water is one way seniors (as well as everyone) can stay healthy. Seniors, especially, need to drink plenty of fluids since not drinking enough water causes major dehydration and that has landed some seniors in the hospital. Dehydration can also cause a senior to fall which can lead to serious injury. At home have water easily accessible. When shopping, or running errands always carry bottled water with you in an insulated bag.
3.) Follow Dietary Restrictions
Many seniors must follow special diets, such low in sodium, or sugar-free, etc…This can be difficult to do during busy times, especially when there aren’t healthy options available. When stressed or thrown off their routine, most people – seniors included – don’t stick to their diets. To make it easier to eat right, keep healthy options like fresh-cut vegetables and fruit easily available to them.
4.) Drink in Moderation Too much alcohol impairs functions which results in increased fall risk. Also for some seniors drinking alcohol while on certain medications can be dangerous because of the adverse side effects caused by mixing the two. In addition to alcoholic drinks remember to offer fun, alcohol-free drinks so everyone can safely celebrate.
5.) Keep Exercising
While we don’t have ice, or snow in most parts of Southern California – it can still be quite cool in the early mornings and lat afternoon/evenings. To stick to an exercise schedule, bundle up and invite your senior for a walk around the block during the warmer part of the day. If you live where it gets snow, frost, or heavy mist, make sure surfaces are not wet or icy.
6.) Shake up Traditions Shopping, cleaning the house, cooking for a crowd, and hosting a big meal – all this can be a source of stress. If a senior traditionally hosts a big holiday meal, it could be time to pass tradition on to the younger generation. If the senior insists on hosting it in their home, younger family members should volunteer to do the pre-cleaning, each guest should prepare part of the meal, set the table and serve, and then help with the cleanup after the meal is over. In other words, allow the senior to host while everyone else does all the rest of the work!
7.) Ease Financial Stress Most senior citizens are on a fixed income, and so feeling obligated to buy many gifts is a financial challenge. To lessen their financial stress, figure out a plan to where everyone contributes just one gift.
8.) Rest After Traveling Some seniors travel long distances to visit family and friends. Whether traveling by car, train, or plane – keep in mind that upon arrival an older person will usually want to rest. Offer
them the choice of watching T.V. or taking a nap rather than planning a day of activities such as running errands, shopping, and visiting or receiving visitors.
9,) Make Homes Accessible Make sure your home is safe and accessible for elderly guests. Be aware of the hazards in your home for someone unstable on their feet, using a cane or walker, or who has limited vision, etc…Clearly alert them about steps and stairs, remove area rugs, keep walkways clear, and make sure the bathroom is “user friendly” for older ones. Have them sleep on the first floor of the home and ideally in a room close to a bathroom. Use nightlights so they don’t stumble in the dark.
10.) Take Breaks Between visiting, errands, shopping, and parties – there are often long, busy days, and late nights. If you are planning an all-day outing or event, schedule in some nap time, or at least a way to relax for a bit. Take a break at home or in a café to sip a cup of relaxing tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. From Seniors to kids and everyone every age in between will appreciate it as well.
11.) Stay Involved Realize that seniors still want to feel a part of the activities. For many, that includes helping with the preparations. While it’s ok to reduce a senior’s stress by hosting at your home instead of theirs, still keep them involved by having them help a little bit with cooking, decorating, or greeting guests.
Seniors can stay emotionally and physically healthy this time of year with a few preventative measures and a willingness to change some traditions. This way everyone of all ages has fun with their family and friends