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  • Writer's pictureKaren McPhail, RN, MSN

Staying Happy and Healthy over the Holidays!

While the holidays are usually a time of fun, food, family, and special celebrations it can also be a challenging time for seniors and those with chronic health challenges. What is supposed to be a carefree and fun time of the year often becomes filled with stress, worry, guilt, and over indulgence leading to physical and emotional health issues.

Give yourself the best gift this season by reading the helpful tips below to start off the end the season merry!

1. Take care of you!

No matter how many parties and family celebrations you go to try to stay on track from a dietary and hydration standpoint. Enjoy, but do not over indulge or allow the holiday season celebrations to carry over for an extended period of time that may then negatively impact your health in the new year. Balance and planning are always key, but especially during the holiday season. If you are going to a pm event eat a lighter healthy breakfast and lunch being mindful of calories and overall nutrition. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the holiday season also! Hydration is a vital part of maintaining good health! Keep a straw cup out in your home and in your car as a reminder to drink throughout the day! And avoid excessive alcohol consumption during the holidays as it can impair judgement and function. In addition, prescription medications ask your physician for advise before consuming as alcohol and some medications can cause harmful side effects. A good host will offer non alcoholic selections so that everyone can join in the fun in a festive way!

2. Try to Maintain your Usual Exercise Schedule or Start One!

Daily exercise is an important part of maintaining health at any age! Sometimes this can be a challenge when colder weather begins in some areas. Seek out opportunities to walk in doors if the weather is a challenge, do an exercise class, or swim indoors. Then on nicer days take a brisk walk outside. If you stick to an exercise plan and schedule even over the holidays you will feel better in the new year! Many people put aside exercise and a balanced diet over the holidays and are then filled with regret and sometimes post holiday depression as result. Stick to your health plan!

3. Keep It Simple

Older adults and those with chronic illness frequently try to take on too many responsibilities over the holidays which leaves them feeling frustrated and stressed. Often times they do not want to change traditions or feel guilty doing so. Try to enjoy the holidays on your terms; think about what will make you truly happy. If you would like to host a family get together then try to keep things simple! Plan a simple buffet or an event that everyone is contributing towards. Or have a family member host the event with your assistance to make it a shared responsibility. Instead of being spread thin with shopping, wrapping, and spending, perhaps do a family or friend Secret Santa or White Elephant game to lessen the financial burden, stress, and to start a fun new tradition! Many older adults become stressed by expenses due to increased medical needs or due to now being on a fixed income; allow yourself to enjoy the holiday without feeling stressed financially! It may be fun to also try giving home grown, yet thoughtful gift coupons to family members such as an afternoon of baking and lunch with Grandma or a trip to the Zoo with Grandpap, or game night with Aunt Susie! Your family will appreciate the thoughtfulness and time together!

4. Travel Considerations

Many older adults travel to visit with family and friends throughout the holiday season. Try to keep travel simple by shipping any gifts ahead of time, taking a non stop flight if possible, checking everything that is not essential, etc. Upon arrival you will be eager to see family and friends, but try to build in a rest period before venturing out and about. Try not to rush, by planning ahead and leaving ample time for airport and car travel. Do not try to pack too much into one trip! Take time to enjoy the holiday, by keeping a flexible schedule. Rushing leads to stress, anxiety, and possible injuries! If travel is difficult communicate this to family members and friends so that they can alter plans and make time to enjoy the holidays on your terms at your home. Many older adults make excused and do not express their physical, medical or financial constraints to family members and end up being alone due to being stoic. Let your thoughts be heard.

5. Be safe while at home

Everyone enjoys the sights and sounds of the holidays, but be mindful of some safety considerations along the way! Be mindful of clutter, wrapping paper, garlands, and cords throughout the holidays to prevent slips and falls. If you are hosting an older adult or someone with mobility challenges check your home to ensure that there are safe walking paths, that area rugs are secured or removed, cords are out of the way, and if they are staying over add nightlights to bathrooms and hallways for increased visibility and be mindful of their bed height.

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