The holiday season is in full swing and while it’s certainly a joyous time of year, it’s also a time when we are all are prone to holiday stress. Senior caregivers are especially vulnerable. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with senior care when family demands are also so high. Caregivers often have to two sets of holiday chores like shopping, wrapping, and writing cards; and if the caregiver is stressed, believe me, the senior experiences stress as well. Here are some ideas to help alleviate the stress and find time for some fun amidst the chaos that is the holiday season.
Take a Mental and Physical Break
Often when the to-do list looks overwhelming, caregivers can feel that taking a break is somewhat indulgent. Not true. According to The Energy Project’s Tony Scwartz, we can accomplish more by doing less. Taking breaks can help you avoid burnout and stay motivated. Watch an old holiday movie like Christmas in Connecticut or The Bishop’s Wife and don’t feel compelled to multi-task when you’re doing it.
Get Some Fresh Air
If you live in a colder climate, it may feel like you’re running from indoor heated space to indoor heated space — from home, to car, to store, and back again. Caregivers know that it’s important to keep a senior active, even during the frigid months. But winter’s cold can limit a senior’s mobility and slick sidewalks can cause treacherous falls. If your city has an indoor botanical garden or conservatory, take your senior client or loved one for a stroll through some much needed fresh (warm) air. Check schedules for special programs like holiday markets, flower shows, concerts, caroling, and holiday light shows. I like to sit on a bench in Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory’s Fern Room and pretend that spring is right around the corner. Many conservatories are free (like the aforementioned Garfield Park Conservatory) or have discounted senior pricing.
The photo above shows the Garfield Park Conservatory White Holiday Flower Show in 2007
During the holidays, treats are everywhere! And when we’re stressed, we tend to gravitate to comfort foods that are not necessarily nutrient-rich. It’s especially important to eat healthy during this frantic time. Eating well not only strengthens our immune system (so important during cold and flu season,) but good carbs, fruit, and vegetables have been shown to raise serotonin levels, helping us to relax. And citrus fruits, in season this time of year, are chock-full of precious vitamin C and other antioxidants — known stress-busters.
Get Some Help
Don’t turn down any offers of help from family, friends, or neighbors. Sometimes caregiver stress can be alleviated with just a few hours away. If there are no offers on the table, consider hiring some respite help. Call a quality senior home care agency early in the season to book a companion caregiver to help with a senior’s activities of daily living, freeing you up to take care of your own holiday needs.
Caregiverlist wishes you the best this holiday season. If you feel overwhelmed as a senior caregiver, remember to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to stop and enjoy all the holiday goodness around you. Remember, it’s your holiday too!
Feel free to post your own suggestions for beating holiday stress in the comments.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and with it, the holiday season officially begins. If you are like the host of other Americans that celebrate by gathering with family and sharing a delicious meal, it’s a great time to assess the health, both physical and mental, of the aging member(s) of your group.
Holidays are a prime time for families to detect dementia in a family member, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your older family members. While it’s certainly an exciting time, it’s also an extremely stressful time — regular routines are disrupted, and large groups of people means noise and excitement — it’s sort of a perfect storm of a time to determine if your aging loved one is exhibiting signs of memory loss.
If you spend Thanksgiving at your senior’s home, a quick bit of detective work will give you some insight into their mental health. Remember to do this stealthily! This is not the time for confrontation, but an opportunity to gauge if your loved ones are living their best lives.
Take a good look (and smell)
Has there been obvious weight loss? People with memory loss often forget to eat. If they are depressed, which often happens when someone begins to experience mental acuity changes, they may decide that cooking is too much bother.
How is their personal hygiene? Are clothes clean? Make note of their grooming to determine any odd or peculiar changes in their regular appearance.
In the house
Check the refrigerator for expired food. Or multiples of the same food. Take a look in the living areas; are they clean and free of clutter? Peek at more personal spaces. While common areas might have been picked up in anticipation of guests, out-of-the-way areas like bathtubs and closets might give a truer picture of a senior’s ability to keep up with general tasks. If they have plants or animals, are they thriving?
Is there any unopened mail hanging about? Paying bills, especially, may seem overwhelming. According to Forbes, financial decision-making capacity erodes early on in those suffering with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.
Talk to neighbors
If you aren’t around much, talk to those who are. If you happen to see neighbors, ask if they have noticed any changes in your senior loved one. A certain red flag is isolation. If they don’t see your senior as often as they used to, it can be cause for concern. Now is the perfect time to exchange phone numbers and ask them to contact you if they see anything remiss.
If you do suspect that there are changes in your senior loved one’s mental acuity, don’t hide your head in the sand. Take the opportunity to talk to other family members and make a plan of action. The first step? Consult your elder’s primary care physician and in the meantime, perhaps enlist some help.
From all of us at Caregiverlist, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.