Thanksgiving is over—rocketing us full-throttle into the countdown to the New Year. Thirty-four days of unadulterated joy—or added stress, depending on how you look at it.
Because at CaringWise our goal is to help eliminate stress, we offer this post: An idea a day to beat stress, and keep the holidays a time for celebration.
- Forget perfection. Most people agree that Martha Stewart set us all up for failure. But this year you have a completely valid excuse to let yourself off the hook. Trust me, even your persnickety Aunt Mildred will understand.
- Eliminate traditions that you don't really enjoy. Traditions beget expectations that take on a life of their own. Many of these have outlived their season, or weren't that much fun to begin with; some actually drive us crazy. Now is the perfect excuse to stop.
- Make sleep a priority. When you are wrapping presents at 3 in the morning, you are grumpy the whole next day. No one cares that much.
- Don't feel the need to jam everything into a two week period. Plan some "holiday" gatherings for January, when you'll need the lift.
- Hire a neighborhood kid to do your shoveling this winter. Better yet, bribe 'em with cookies; your house will smell fabulous.
- Go to the cheesiest holiday performance you can find. You will laugh about it for the rest of the season.
- Dance to the music in the mall. The shopgirls will give you lots of attention and you'll be on your way before you know it.
- Organize a white elephant gift exchange—of things people already own. No shopping, lots of laughs. Isn't joy the point?
- Exercise! Remember it is the best stress-reliever around. And it just might ward off the traditional holiday weight gain.
- Put on your PJs, pile in the car and ride around looking at the lights. This is a fun activity for the whole family. (Kudos to my friend Isabel Fawcett for this idea).
- Hang twinkly lights in your loved one's bedroom. Nothing telegraphs the season better.
- Crank the tunes. Sick of mall music? There are lots of options—from country to humor to Celtic tunes.
- Drink 8 glasses of water each day. Dry heat makes winter a really dehydrating time, and dehydration, among other things, makes you tired.
- Read the holiday classics. Look at the pictures. Find the magic. (Two that should be classics: How Murry Saved Christmas and Santa Calls)
- Hang up some mistletoe. And enjoy those extra hugs and kisses!
- Get the same thing for everyone on your list. It can be a book, a photo, an ornament, a plate of cookies—or a contribution to your favorite charity.
- Get your picture taken with Santa. Bring your care recipient, too—Santa's happy to see kids of ALL ages...and talk about a cherished family memento...copies for everyone!
- Pop the bubble wrap that comes in your online orders. This is a fun activity everyone can enjoy!
- Hang a picture of the Grinch on the refrigerator as a reminder to smile.
- Buy a prelit tree. The point is for it to twinkle—and it will. Then spend some time just looking at it. We set up a card table and enjoy dinner in front of the tree for the whole season.
- Use Christmas cards to decorate the tree. That way you only do a little at a time. Supplement with old family photos.
- Remember to take at least 10 minutes a day just for you. Showers don't count. Bubble baths do.
- Cut your junk mail into snowflakes. This can relieve frustration while creating rather unique seasonal decorations.
- Don’t overdo it — you're allowed to say no to holiday parties. This is especially true of the ones that, on reflection, you don't actually enjoy.
- Rewatch the old holiday classics: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
- If you are traveling with an older person, read these tips first.
- Make someone else's Christmas bright by volunteering at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. You have enough to do? You'd be amazed how reaching out makes your life feel better.
- Burn the wrapping paper and the boxes. SO much easier than taking out the trash!
- Share stories about your best holidays ever. Record them for posterity (or just to share with far-flung family).
- Delegate at least one chore you hate. This will be a fine thing to continue in the New Year.
- Resolve to laugh hard at least once a day in the coming year. Figure out how to keep the resolution.
- Try to remember that snow is magical. This is easier when someone else is doing the shoveling (see item #5).
- Start taking a Vitamin D supplement. And turn on the lights. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is nothing to scoff at.
- In the coming year, resolve to take ten deep breathes every time you think you'll lose it, and ask yourself: In five years will this have mattered? Nine times out of ten, the answer is no—and you can lose the stress now.
Or a stumble.
When you are older, a fall can literally change your life.
falls are the leading cause of accidental death in people over age 65 (so while you are worrying about how to pry the car keys away from Mom, give some thought to talking her out of her high heels, too).Older people are both more prone to falls and more vulnerable to their effects.
Why? Changes in vision and hearing, reflexes and coordination. In addition, diseases complicate matters: hypotension can cause dizziness; Parkinson's Disease can affect coordination; Alzheimer's Disease impairs judgement. And medications can cause any of those issues. Then when a fall occurs, older, more porous bones simply snap.
So what's a caregiver to do? You can swaddle your parents in packing blankets—or take more practical steps to help them stay well-balanced and not tempt fate. We've discussed some ways to improve their balance
as well as offered practical tips for things you can do to make their home safer
. Now, we offer a free brochure with good background information and more practical tips.
Met Life's Mature Markets Institute, in partnership with the National Alliance for Caregiving, have published this handy booklet entitled, The Essentials: Falls and Fall Prevention
. We recommend that you download and read yourself. Written in a friendly, Q & A format, this handy brochure details
the most common causes of falls, as well as how to evaluate the risk of a fall and basic fall prevention techniques. It concludes with three pages of resources., organizations that can help keep your parents on their feet.
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It’s a fact
: The older we get the more likely we are to fall and the more likely we are to hurt ourselves on the way down. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that each year 30-40% of Americans over age 60 fall at least once. This is something you want to be very careful about when it comes to your parents.
Now, you are unlikely to convince the folks to replace that brick terrace with nice smooth concrete, and even more unlikely to successfully eliminate the step between the living room and dining room, but there are
a lot of environmental factors that are easily controlled, as we discussed in our previous post
There are also two key interventions regarding their person. Help them practice good balance
. Yep. Practice. There are a host of balance enhancing exercises, most of which can be done anywhere with no special equipment. For instance, try simply standing on one foot for 10 seconds, with your other leg bent back like a stork. Then switch legs. (Do this in front of a counter or a chair back, so there is something to grab if necessary). Not as easy as it sounds, is it? But with practice you will even be able to do it with your eyes closed. Tai chi is also terrific for balance and your gym should be able to show you other useful exercises. Don’t keep them to yourself; remember, this is about your parents, so make sure they do them, too. Check their medications
. The American healthcare system (don’t get me started) makes sure that everyone sees a lot of specialists. Every one of them manages to prescribe one or more new medicines. Very few first ask about what else someone is already taking. And let’s be honest: even if the doctor asks, practically no one actually knows the answer. Layer on our odd proclivity to take other people’s drugs (“This worked great for me, you should try some.”) and there is no telling what kind of internal stew any one of us is brewing. But I digress.
It’s a good habit to routinely rifle through your parents’ medicine cabinet, check expiration dates, note the full range of what is there, and cross-check for interactions. At the same time you can weed out the ones that cause dizziness or balance issues (a problem with several frequently prescribed sleep aides, for instance), then proactively ask the doctor for an alternative. The bottom line:
You need as much in your favor as humanly possible.This post is part two in a series.
Be sure to read Preventing a Fall (Part 1)
with 6 simple ways to make your parent's environment safer, and Preventing a Fall (Part 3)
with a link to a brochure with additional tips.
It can happen in the blink of an eye.
And everything changes.
Old bones shatter more dramatically—and heal more slowly. And the enforced idleness isn’t just inconvenient. (Though it is. For everyone. Believe me on this.) It can set off an avalanche of related health problems, from muscle atrophy to cardiac issues. So you really, really, really don’t want your aging parents to take a tumble.
The good news is that a few simple steps can help forestall that fall in the first place.
Pump up the lighting
. My family may call me hypocritical for writing this, because in an effort not to waste electricity we generally stumble around in the dark, but in truth, good lighting is invaluable in preventing a fall. Fundamentally, you have to be able to see where you are going—and aging eyes do that less well with every passing day. So use higher wattage bulbs, brighten up dim corners and be sure to install motion-sensor night lights. As a corollary to the whole vision thing: make sure your loved one’s eye-glass prescription is up to date. Clean up the junk
. Piles of old papers. Clothes on the floor. Stacks of books. Every one of them is a fall waiting to happen. This is particularly true on the stairs; stray objects blend into the carpet and are rendered invisible, especially to those heading downstairs. Rearrange the cabinets
. Put the things your parents use every day within easy reach, thus eliminating the temptation to climb on a step-stool (or worse kneel on the counter. Come on; you know you do it.) Go skid-free
. Move throw rugs out of the path of travel or fasten down their corners with double stick tape. Replace standard bathmats with non-skid mats and add the non-skid strips to the tub. I know they are ugly, but not as ugly as a shattered leg. Grab on
. Every stairway needs a sturdy handrail, preferably on both sides. And while you’re at it, replace the bathroom towel racks with grab bars—there are good-looking ones now. Otherwise, when your parent slips on some water, they will end up yanking the towel bar out of the wall on their way down, and you’ll have to call a plasterer as well as 911. Raise those hems
. Long dresses. High heels. Long dresses with high heels. Even the most nimble of us get caught. So banish the stilettos and get the hemlines off the ground; tea-length gowns are lovely even on the most special occasions. And remember, fashionistas aren’t the only ones at risk: backless slippers and loose pants are both equally threatening.
Here’s the bottom line: Look around your parents’ house. Anything that has ever caused you (or worse, them) to slightly stumble is an accident waiting to happen. Fix it now.This post is the first in a series on Fall Prevention. Be sure to also read
: Preventing a Fall (Part 2) which offers tips to help balance and Preventing a Fall (Part 3) with a link to a brochure for more tips. Also visit our Facebook Page and download our Fall Prevention checklist, found under "Reports."