Whether you are a care coordinator, caregiver or a family member of someone who is getting up in age, chances are you know someone with chronic conditions. During the holidays, many factors affect the people around us, especially those with chronic health conditions. Whether it's the holiday blues, traveling out of town or trying to manage diet restrictions and other self-care measures, these are all things that need to be monitored with extra care over the holidays. Here are some tips on navigating chronic conditions during the holiday season.
Holiday Diet for Chronic Illnesses
When one is diagnosed with one or more chronic condition, diet alterations are the first changes to make. Whether the case is diabetes, heart failure or high blood pressure, it's likely that your loved one has diet restrictions. Holiday foods are often high in sodium, sugar and fat. Make sure their dietary intake is still monitored, even if it means cutting a smaller slice of their favorite pie or substituting one food item for another, so that everyone can enjoy the holidays without a trip to the emergency room.
Chronic Conditions and Holiday Depression
People with chronic conditions can find the holidays particularly difficult when they are faced with the limitations of not being able to enjoy the holidays as much as they would like due to their health. Pay particular attention to signs of depression during this season so the holiday blues do not lead to more severe symptoms. Watch for signs of depression and anxiety during the holiday season. These signs may include:
- Sadness and tearfulness
- Loss of interest in once-pleasurable and enjoyable activities
- Eating more or less than usual, or gaining or losing weight
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Feeling slow or restless
- Lack of energy
- Feeling hopeless, helpless or inadequate
Medications for Chronic Illnesses
Many people travel for the holidays and prescriptions can often be forgotten. Whether traveling out of town or simply going to someone else’s house for the day, any change in routine can lead to forgetting to take medications. Also, rises or drops in temperature can change the effectiveness of some medications, so always read instructions and make sure they are being followed. Medications and any instructions that are prescribed should be packed ahead of time.
Dementia at the Holidays
For loved ones with dementia, the holidays may be an even more confusing and difficult time for them. Adhere to routines as much as possible and keep in mind they may not like crowds and may not recognize family members. Visits with smaller groups may not be as overwhelming and try to have pictures on hand to talk about memories.
Short Staff of Care Coordinators for Chronic Care
Whether care coordinators are short-staffed due to workers having time off, or family members and caretakers are busy during this time of year, those who rely on being taken care of need to be remembered. Be sure to check on those around you who may need extra care to make sure they have everything that they need.
New Year's Resolutions for Chronic Illnesses
People are most likely to want to become engaged in Care Coordination services at the start of a new year. This is the best time to introduce small, incremental changes whether it’s a diet, exercise or giving up smoking. Try to enact patient engagement and catch the attention of those willing to commit to changing their lifestyle early in the year.
While the holidays are a time of joy for most, those with chronic conditions may need extra care during this time of year. Physical, mental and psychosocial well-being comprise a person’s health, and aspects of all three need to be monitored during the holidays.
If you notice signs of depression or negative side effects from diet or medications, contact a healthcare provider to discuss these symptoms as soon as possible.