The holidays can be a frantic rush. They start earlier and earlier every year and often leave families feeling stressed and exhausted. How about making this year a year to enjoy the simple things? A season to celebrate what matters most.
Here are a few suggestions to try this year:
- Gather friends and family together in the yard of an aging loved one’s home and build a snowman (if weather and location allow). If they can’t help, they can watch out the window. If you have an older family member miles away, video the process and do a share with them. Have a family member or caregiver who lives close play it for them.
- If your loved one is in an assisted living or nursing home, work with the staff to help organize an event on a day the calendar isn’t already full. Maybe a Gingerbread Building Contest or an hour or two devoted to helping residents address their holiday cards for people.
- Get the kids involved! Maybe they can make cards for nursing home residents or help decorate an assisted living center for the holidays. Giving up some of their gently used toys to a shelter is always a nice idea.
- Know a family really struggling this year? Be their ‘Secret Santa’. Discreetly find ways to help. You could send them gift cards anonymously or arrange for a delivery of fruit and other goodies.
- How long has it been since you’ve been holiday caroling? Who cares if you can’t sing! Organize some friends and family and plan a few stops. Your church might have a list of members that are shut-ins you could visit that may enjoy hearing you.
Whatever you decide to do, just remember to take time to enjoy friends and family this the holiday season.
We would love to hear how you have decided to make this holiday season special or what your yearly tradition is. Do you use any of the suggestion listed above?
Holiday Happiness for the Whole Family:
Ways to make sure your older loved ones enjoy the holiday season and you do, too
Auburn, NH - Fall is here, and with it comes some of the most memorable times of year – the holidays. Perhaps more than any other occasion, the holiday season is steeped in family tradition, with cherished elements that sometimes span generations. But when family members get older, or have declining health, maintaining their involvement in those traditions can become more a burden than a boon.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month
Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in our country. Health experts believe that unless we take dramatic steps to change our lifestyles, one in three adults will have diabetes by the year 2050. Currently, 26 million adults and children live with diabetes. Estimates are that another 79 million are at risk for developing Type II diabetes. The consequences of diabetes are staggering both in terms of personal health and financial resources.
On the personal level, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and of new cases of blindness. People who are diabetic are ten times more likely to need an amputation. Two out of three diabetics will die of heart disease or stroke.
The financial costs for caring for people with diabetes are high and climbing higher every day. Currently, one in every five dollars spent on health care is for someone who is diabetic. National estimates are that $174 billion is spent on the direct and indirect costs of diabetes.
For National Diabetes Month in November, the American Diabetes Association is trying to help the general public understand what it is like to live with this disease. They have launched, “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” on their Facebook page. The social project invites those living diabetes to post their story and photos to help raise awareness. You can visit their page to see what it is like to try to manage diabetes or post your own story if you are diabetic.
How Can You Prevent Diabetes?
There are a few simple steps you can take to cut your risk for Type II Diabetes:
- Maintain a healthy weight and lose weight if you need to
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week
- Keep your cholesterol in check
- Stop smoking
If you want to assess your risk for developing diabetes, the American Diabetes Association has a simple test you can take for free online by clicking here: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/diabetes-risk-test/.
THE DENIAL TRAP
I had a sobering realization recently in helping one of our client families to decide how best to manage finances to take account of all their current realities. The senior receiving our services was supposedly paying our bills herself, but she had fallen very far behind. Repeatedly in our conversation, she demonstrated an inability to understand the concepts behind getting reimbursement for home care expenses from her insurance company and her responsibilities to pay us. She had not balanced her checkbook for the past four months, and blithely said that the bank officer would help her do that. She mentioned a real estate transaction in Florida that she had to take care of, and how she was sure that she had been cheated somehow in that. Meanwhile, her daughter, who was part of the meeting, expressed her dilemma about whether her mother was no longer able to manage her own finances, or whether she simply was unwilling to tackle it. It became clear to me that both of them were in denial about the senior’s current incapacity to handle her own funds.
This senior had experienced a stroke some months ago, and had regained much of her functioning. Her ambulation has largely recovered, she can perform many of her activities of daily living, her speech was unaffected, and her personality and social skills are largely intact. She can be grateful for all those positive outcomes, but it served as a smoke screen for her less obvious cognitive impairments. I felt forced to tell her and her daughter that she now needs to turn over her financial management to others.
One of the cruel ironies of cognitive impairment, whether it’s due to dementia, stroke or some other condition, is that the individual is deprived of the fully functioning brain needed to have insight into their own limitations. But as in this case, close family members often are also unable to see it. Why is this so? Usually it is because of a combination of several factors, such as
• A desire to continue viewing the loved one as capable
• A fear of progressive reduced mental capacity in future
• The increased dependence of the senior
• The need for them to assume more responsibilities in caring for the elder
• The needed change in their relationship with the senior
• Fear of how to help the senior cope with all the changes
• Uncertainty of all the unknowable implications both now and in future
I see DENIAL at work every day among both seniors and family members. I have come to view it as a very normal human response to the sometimes slowly encroaching, difficult-to-identify aspects of aging. But which of us are immune from the denial trap? Two more examples:
• A professional in our field, a woman with decades of experience in helping seniors, was relating her concerns about her own mother, when it became clear that the senior was experiencing hallucinations, but the daughter couldn’t see it. A senior services professional!
• A published op-ed piece a year ago related the story of a man who had won a Nobel prize in economics, but in his senior years had gambled, given away or been scammed out of his personal fortune before his family realized that he was making terrible financial decisions. Who was his son? A PhD economist!
So now we come to my sobering realization: it could happen to me, too. What makes me think that I won’t be victim of the same denial trap? How will my wife and I know when the time has come to cede a little control? To give up the car keys? To turn over finances to others? To have home care of our own? Will we be the lucky ones who retain full mental functioning until the end? Or will we experience mental decline? If the latter, will one of us be able to take care of the other? Or will it happen to both of us concurrently? When one of us dies, will the survivor need help in unforeseen ways? Will our children (now in only their 20s) be endowed with the wisdom to see our decline with clear eyes, or will they engage in denial like so many do? Will we have the necessary relationships of trust with people who are able to see our need for help, and take the necessary actions?
How do we take steps in the coming years to insure a desirable answer to these questions?
This article was written by Barney Dale-Freiberg, Director of Visiting Angels of Greater Boston. www.visitingangels.com/newton