Thursday, November 21, 2013

Holiday Season Tips for Caregivers

For most of us, the holiday season is a wonderful time to share the joys of family life and friendship. However for many older adults the holidays can be highly stressful, confusing, or even depressing if their emotional, mental, or physical needs are not taken into account.

If you have older friends and family members with underlying health conditions, you can help them enjoy the holiday season more by following these simple tips:
1. Stroll down memory lane. 
Holidays provoke memories, which can be especially powerful in the later years of life. “Leading authorities have observed that memory and ‘life review’ are important parts of the aging process,” says Barry Lebowitz, Ph.D., deputy director of UCSD’s Stein Institute for Research on Aging. “Older people whose memories are impaired may have difficulty remembering recent events, but they are often able to share stories and observations from the past. These shared memories are important for the young as well—children enjoy hearing about how it was ‘when your parents were your age…’.” He suggests using picture albums, family videos and music, even theme songs from old radio or TV programs, to help stimulate memories and encourage older seniors to share their stories and experiences.

2. Eliminate obstacles. 
If a holiday get-together is held in the home of an older person with memory impairment or behavioral problems, don’t rearrange the furniture. This could be a source of confusion and anxiety. If the gathering is in a place unfamiliar to an older person, remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could present barriers to someone with balance problems or who has difficulty walking.

3. Reach out. 
Being together with loved ones is especially important at holiday times.  “Older adults are some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Whether a senior lives alone or is being cared for by others, the potential for self-neglect or abuse is there,” says Mosqueda, chair of the UC Irvine Department of Family Medicine, and director of geriatrics and the Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse and Neglect. “It is more likely to become an issue if you fail to recognize warning signs early, so use your time wisely with loved ones this holiday season.”

4. Be diet conscious.
With age comes diet restrictions that may influence what or how we eat. Whether it's kidney disease, heart failure, loss of appetite, or simply a difficult chewing, these need to be taking into consideration during food preparation. Here you'll find recipes and pointers to adhere to various diet restrictions.   

5. Keep the spirits high.
Ultimately, the holidays are about being around those you love and care about. Do you best to form new memories with your loved ones by managing stress and focusing on the joy of being together. Tis the season to be jolly! 

Join us! Monday, November 25th at 7pm ET/4pm PT, for a TweetChat at #Nurseup to talk more about preparations for the holiday season. 

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