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Help seniors avoid holiday stress

With Christmas time upon us, it is important to remember the seniors in your family.

The holidays can be stressful for even the most laid-back folks, so imagine the toll on those not used to all the hustle and bustle in their lives.

This is a festive and exciting time of year, but it is also very stressful - especially for older people. It can be overwhelming. We all need to be sensitive to those feelings so everybody has a good time.

Set reasonable expectations. That's the most important thing. Don't push seniors into everything - to go on every shopping trip, out to eat, to every Christmas program, etc. Stick to their schedule. If they are used to eating at 5 p.m. and you eat at 9 p.m., that can cause stress for them.

Remember that downtime is very important. Give them time to rest and give them a place to escape to. If possible, give them their own room, a place of quiet. Give them a break from the grandkids. Grandparents want to be with their grandchildren, but not all the time.

Plan activities for everyone. Maybe Grandma doesn't want to go tobogganing or caroling in the cold weather, but would enjoy playing an inside game. Maybe instead of going shopping, go to a movie.

Include old and new traditions. Traditions can bring back memories. But they can also be comforting. If there is a member of your family that is no longer with you, don't be afraid to talk about it. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. Maybe start a new tradition.

Assess health. It's not just physical health, but mental health. It's loneliness. This time of year brings up a lot of memories. Make sure they are eating right and sleeping well.

If someone is grieving, listen to them. Give them a hug. Don't pretend the person who passed away didn't exist. Share memories.

Remember those who aren't with you. If they are far away, give them a call. If they are in a nursing home, don't forget them. Try to go and visit them. If that's not possible, you can call them also.

Anticipate safety and comfort needs. Remove any throw rugs that can be a hazard for older folks with walkers or wheelchairs. If you are going out and about during the holidays and someone in your family has trouble walking, see if you can rent or borrow a wheelchair for them.

Give the gift of time. They want to be with you. Don't spend all day cooking. Ask for help so that you can spend more time with your loved ones. Take time to do the things that interest them.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year. Enjoy the time you have with your seniors.

Reminder: Caregiver support groups meet on Monday, December 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. and January 12 from 2 to 4 p.m., all at First Lutheran Church in Alexandria. Come and join us!