While the holidays are a time of gatherings with family and friends, they can also be hard on the senior’s health, as exercise schedules might be disrupted for shopping excursions and rich holiday meals can make it difficult to adhere to a particular diet. Add in flu season, and staying healthy can be a challenge during this time of year. Get your loved one’s caregiver involved to help manage expectations at holiday time.
To help seniors stay healthy during the holidays, follow these tips:
- Make Healthy Choices. From rich meals to tempting and tasty homemade snacks, the holidays are a time for many to indulge in food—or overindulge. Try to plan meals with other events in mind. For example, if a big dinner is planned for New Year’s Eve, consider serving a lighter lunch of salad or soup.
- Stay Hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is one way you can stay healthy. To make it easier to stay hydrated, have water easily accessible at home and keep bottled water in a purse or bag when running errands.
- Follow Dietary Restrictions. Some seniors must follow special diets, but it can be difficult to adhere to a diet during this busy season, especially if there aren’t any healthy options available. To comply with dietary restrictions, carry healthy options in the car while traveling or ready to eat at home.
- Drink in Moderation. Alcohol can affect balance and so increase the risk of falls, and also may interact with some medications. Consider offering fun, alcohol-free drinks so everyone can celebrate the holidays safely.
- Keep Exercising. In many parts of the country, the holidays are synonymous with cold weather and snow. To stick to an exercise schedule when the weather is inclement, develop a gentle exercise routine at home for your loved one, or drive to an indoor shopping mall and walk a few laps while window-shopping.
- Shake up Traditions. Between cleaning the house and cooking for a crowd, hosting a big holiday meal can be a source of stress. If an older relative traditionally hosts a big holiday meal, consider passing the tradition on to the younger generation of family members. If the relative insists on hosting, have younger family members volunteer to clean or prepare part of the meal.
- Simplify Gift-Giving. For many seniors, especially those on a fixed income, the holidays can be a financial challenge when purchasing gifts for many family members. To reduce this financial stress, consider having a family grab bag, where everyone contributes one gift.
- Rest After Traveling. For some seniors, the holidays are a time to travel long distances to visit family and friends. Consider providing down time for your loved one, such as a nap or watching a movie upon arrival, rather than planning a family gathering or holiday activities as soon as they get to their destination.
- Make Homes Accessible. If older relatives are visiting your home for the holidays, ensure your home is safe and accessible. Make sure there are no tripping hazards such as rugs or exposed cords, and have them sleep on the first floor if possible. If that’s not possible, let them stay in a room close to the bathroom. In addition, use nightlights in the hallway so they don’t stumble in the dark.
- Take Breaks. Between parties and shopping, the holidays often involve busy days and late nights. If you are planning an outing, try to carve some time for a nap at home for the senior, or if that is not possible, take breaks during the day, such as at a restaurant or coffee shop. Kids, seniors and everyone in-between will appreciate it.
- Help Them Stay Involved. Recognize that seniors want to feel they are part of your holiday activities. For many, that may include helping out with holiday preparations. Offer them the opportunity to help within their capabilities, such as assistance with cooking, gift-wrapping or decorating.
With a few preventative measures and a willingness to adjust some traditions, senior citizens can stay healthy and follow their diets, while also having fun with their family members this holiday season.
—By Caren Parnes
Contributor for The Senior’s Choice