While the holidays are a time of good cheer and gatherings with family and friends, they can also be a source of stress. Regular routines are often disrupted, which means that time set aside to exercise is swapped for shopping excursions and a full social calendar with rich holiday meals makes it difficult to adhere to a particular diet.
Staying healthy, especially for seniors, can be a challenge at this time of the year. For someone who is wanting to spend time with an elderly friend or relative, it’s important to know their limits.
“If you haven’t seen them for a while, you can anticipate that they might need help, but they might not express to you that they’ve slowed down and need to take things at a different pace. It’s important to be conscious of this and offer older relatives options. Ask them what they want to do, but don’t assume their limitations,” said Debbie Brown, Senior Living Specialist.
There are many other factors to consider to help reduce stress, avoid the holiday blues and help seniors stay healthy during the holidays. Keep the following tips in mind:
Follow Dietary Restrictions
Some seniors must follow special diets, such as one that is low in sodium. It can be difficult to adhere to a diet during busy, stressful times, especially if there aren’t any healthy options available. “When people get stressed, they tend to overeat and they don’t follow their regular diets. To make it easier to follow dietary guidelines, keep healthy options like fresh-cut vegetables and fruit on hand,” said Debbie.
Another way to not overindulge in a rich meal is to plan ahead. For example, if you’re planning on having a big dinner on New Year’s Eve, consider serving a lighter lunch of soup or salad. “You don’t want to deny any one of the food that they like to eat at this time of year, but you don’t want anyone to gorge themselves either. No one ever says they feel terrific from overeating,” said Debbie.
Choose the Right Beverage
Drinking water is another way you can stay healthy during the holidays. “Senior citizens need to drink plenty of fluids, as not drinking enough water could cause hospitalization,” said Debbie. To stay hydrated, have water easily accessible at home and keep bottled water in a purse or bag when you are out and about.
While alcohol is often part of the festivities, drinking too much can impair functions and cause further dehydration. “For some senior citizens, drinking alcohol with certain medications can have adverse side effects, be sure to take this into consideration,” said Debbie. Plan to offer fun, alcohol-free drinks so everyone can celebrate the holidays.
Shake up Traditions
If an older relative is traditionally the host of family functions, consider passing the tradition on to the younger generation. Getting all the groceries, cleaning the house and cooking for a crowd, can be a source of stress. If the relative insists on hosting, Debbie recommends younger family members volunteer to clean or prepare part of the meal.
Another way to reduce or eliminate stress is to alter your gift exchange. For many senior citizens, especially those on a fixed income, the holidays can be financially challenging due to buying gifts, groceries and special little treats. Consider having a family grab bag, where everyone contributes just one gift. This allows a family to save time, money and spend more quality time together.
Make Homes Accessible
If you have older relatives visiting for the holidays, ensure that your home is safe and accessible. “Be mindful of things in your home that could be hazardous. For instance, someone with a cane could easily trip over an area rug,” Debbie advises.
If possible, have your relative sleep on the main floor and in a room that is close to the bathroom. Another good idea is to add extra nightlights in the hallway and bathroom to help seniors navigate at night.
After a long day (or days) of travelling, be mindful that an older relative might want to rest upon arrival.
It’s also important to take breaks in between all parties and shopping. If you are planning an all-day outing, carve some time for a nap or a way to relax for a bit, even if that means stopping at a cafe for a tea or coffee. Children, seniors and everyone in between will appreciate it.
Recognize that seniors still want to feel like they are part of the holidays. For many, that may include helping out with holiday preparations. “It is fine to reduce stress by offering to hold the holiday event at your home instead of theirs, but still keep them involved by asking if they would like to bring their favourite dish or help to wrap presents,” said Debbie.
With a few changes in the way that we think, we can make sure that everyone has a fun, healthy and stress-free holiday where great memories are made.