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Coping with the holidays–Tips for caregivers

By Nicole Long

UnknownFor many people the holiday season brings joy and happiness but, the holidays can be exhausting and stressful even in the best of times. If you are caring for an older adult or a family member, the holiday season can bring added stress.

During the holiday season there are more social commitments, financial pressures and family gatherings. You may find yourself over-stressed and off your normal routine of exercising, sleeping, healthy eating and other positive coping activities. Here are some tips to help minimize the stress that accompany the holidays.

  • Be aware of emotional ups and downs and fatigue levels.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. Don’t try to do too much. Keep a regular sleep, meal and exercise schedule and limit your alcohol intake.
  • Try to avoid negative relatives or others that trigger stress or unhappy memories. Focus on the positive.
  • Remember, it is ok to say no!
  • It is ok to seek help and support from others.
  • If you have time, volunteering to help others is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  • Try to schedule outings and events during the time of day that is best for you and the person you are caring for.
  • Set a budget, and don’t spend more than you planned.
  • Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family. Focus instead on the traditions that make holidays special.

“Nowadays, families do not always live near one another, or even within the same state, so they are less likely to witness the signs that a family member is in need of assistance,” explained Nicole Long, CEO of OCES.  “The holidays are a good time to check in and determine if they may be in need of supportive services such as meal preparation, housekeeping, bill paying or other assistance that enables them to live independently at home.”

OCES offers the following tips gathered from various resources to help ensure your loved ones are “safe and sound”:

Good nutrition – Check the refrigerator and the pantry for signs of a healthy diet. Having a package of cookies on hand as a treat is fine, but sweets, soda, chips and other snack foods should not be the only type of food in the house. Is the fridge bare or are essentials such as dairy items, eggs, juice, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables on hand? Are there shelf stable foods, such as cereal, soup, crackers, rice, pasta and beans in the cabinets? The Meals on Wheels program may be an option if your loved one is unable to get out to purchase groceries or prepare nutritious meals themselves.

Social connections – Do you see signs of social participation? Involvement with friends, local club, church or senior center? Is your loved one’s general outlook positive or negative? Withdrawal from social activities and a negative outlook may be signs of depression or other illness.

Fall prevention – Is there room to maneuver in your loved one’s home? Pathways from room to room should be clear, so consider moving those small side tables, footstools, umbrella stands, pet toys and other items that could potentially cause them to trip. Scatter rugs, particularly those lacking non-skid backing, are slip and trip hazards and should be removed.

Bright lighting – Is there ample lighting in your loved one’s home so they can see to move around and perform daily tasks? Check overhead lighting and lamps to ensure they are in good working order and replace bulbs if needed. Install nightlights in bathrooms and hallways, which also helps prevent trips and falls.

Bath aids – Fatigue, certain medications or reduced mobility may make your loved one feel a little unsteady on their feet. As a precaution, consider installing grab bars in the bathtub or shower for safety, or adding a shower seat.

Home safety – Make sure your loved one has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed and that they are working. Test and change the batteries to avoid your loved one climbing a stepladder to perform the task. Make sure all of the home’s entryways are clear (not blocked by clutter) and all doors are in good working order.

Emergency readiness – In case of emergency, assemble an emergency kit for your loved one that includes a flashlight, bottled water and dry food, to be kept by the bed. Post a list of emergency and other important contacts (in large print) by the telephone.

Keeping in touch – Does your loved one have a system in place to keep in touch? There are Robocall services that may be arranged to check on your loved one daily, but you should also arrange a set day and time to call and check-in.

There are many organizations that have published extensive information on aging in place in safety and in good health, such as The Family Caregiver Council (familycaregivercouncil.com), the National Institute for Health (nia.nih.gov), and the Cleveland Clinic (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/managing-holiday-stress) and the above information has been gathered from those resources.

long-nicole-copyAbout the Author

Nicole Long is the Chief Executive Officer of Old Colony Elder Services (OCES).  Founded in 1974, OCES proudly serves greater Plymouth County and surrounding communities. OCES is a private, non-profit organization headquartered in Brockton with a second office in Plymouth. OCES is designated as one of 26 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. OCES’ mission is to support the independence and dignity of elders and people with disabilities by providing essential information and services that promote healthy and safe living. The agency has 245 employees and operates more than 15 programs serving older adults, individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers. For more information call 508-584-1561 or visit www.ocesma.org

Reprinted from the South Shore Senior News

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