Holiday related information

Grandparenting in the time of COVID


The “COVID exile” has hit older adults particularly hard, adding isolation and depression to their high risk of dying from the virus.

This is especially so for the 70 million grandparents who have suddenly been cut off from their grandchildren, a major source of joy and affection.

Not only are daily lives diminished, but time is ticking. Children grow and change. No contact means missing out. And many older adults, especially those already in frail health, fear they could never see their grandchildren again.

If quality of life—having access to true delight—is more important to your loved one than safety, consider together the relative risks of in-person contact. Here are some guidelines:

Maximize safety. The safest are short visits, preferably outdoors, with masks, handwashing, and maintaining a six-foot distance. As bad weather increases, indoor visiting may be necessary. But it increases the risk. The fewer the number of people and the larger and more ventilated the room, the safer the visit.

 Health and age of the older adult. Those over 85 are most at risk. The CDC reports added risk for those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes (Type 2), heart disease, obesity, sickle cell anemia, and compromised immune systems. Asthma and high blood pressure also increase the risk of getting sicker with COVID.

Health and exposure of the child. What makes interacting with grandchildren risky is that they can be infected without showing symptoms. Absolutely forego a visit if the child has a fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, or body aches. Children can bring other illnesses, such as cold or flu. Make sure they are current on their immunizations. Children are typically exposed to more people. If a child is attending in person school or day care, a visit is riskier than if a child has had little to no outside contact in the previous 14 days. Children are also less able to follow guidelines. Social distancing is hard for all ages, especially teens. Masks are impractical with children younger than two years.

Is travel required for a visit? If so, check out the viral transmission rates in both communities. If one is high, reconsider the visit. Avoiding airports is wise. Car trips are safer. But hotels, restaurants, and public restrooms require extra care. Consider quarantining for 14 days before the journey so everyone’s exposure is low. A negative test before a visit may ease anxiety, but a test is only a snapshot in time. A person can get infected an hour later.

Source: Dee Childers, Life Changes Elder Care, LLC

How You Can Help Seniors Facing the Holidays Alone

How You Can Help Seniors Facing the Holidays AloneImagine waking up alone on Christmas morning, with no one to share in the joy of the holiday with you. Imagine getting dressed the way you always do, having breakfast the way you always do, and watching TV as you always do—nothing special about this day, no grandchildren squealing with delight as they tear open packages under the tree, no family dinner to look forward to later.

That is the scenario faced by tens of thousands of seniors who have no living family members or whose relatives who live far away and can’t visit at Christmastime. These seniors may come from a variety of faiths or backgrounds, but what they have in common is an estrangement from the holiday season, their faith traditions and all the seasonal merriment.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, as many as half of all long-term care residents have no living relations. Of those who do have family, around 60 percent of them never receive a visitor.

If that statistic makes you feel sad, consider it may be just the tip of the iceberg. It’s possible a similar number of seniors who reside at home or outside a care facility also lack regular visitors, either because they have no relatives or because their families are disengaged.

This holiday season, you have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to the lives of these forgotten seniors. Here are some ways you can make the holidays merry for them.

Problem: Family members live far away and can’t travel to visit during the holidays

Solution: Go high-tech

Help arrange a real-time video chat between the senior and his or her family members using a tablet computer. Software programs like Skype and FaceTime offer free or low-cost options for video conversations.

If the video chat goes well, don’t restrict it to the holidays. Offer to facilitate regular face-to-face teleconferencing each week or month.

Problem: Seniors receive no gifts or greetings during the holidays

Solution: Be a Santa to a Senior

The Be a Santa to a Senior®  program, sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care®, makes the holidays merrier for those who will not be receiving gifts or visitors during the season. You can submit the senior’s information to a local participating Home Instead Senior Care office and allow him or her to be surprised with a personally delivered present. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to pull an ornament off the giving tree yourself to provide a gift for a lonely senior.

If your area doesn’t have a Be a Santa to a Senior program, look for similar opportunities through retailers and faith communities.

Problem: Isolation during the holiday season

Solution: Take a drive

Many seniors face the challenge of being isolated throughout the year. Physical frailty and giving up the car keys can keep a senior cooped up at home. This can be especially depressing during the holiday season.

If you are a private one-on-one caregiver, you can help alleviate the senior’s isolation by taking him or her for a ride to view holiday lights and decorations or to tour the fall foliage. If the senior gets around reasonably well, take him or her to the food court at the mall to sit and view the bustle of shoppers and the beautiful decorations.

If you work at a facility, try to arrange a holiday lights field trip for your residents who are capable of participating. You might be able to find a community sponsor to provide vans and additional supervision.

Problem: Seniors can’t share family memories because relatives are absent

Solution: Pull out the photo albums

One of the best parts of gathering with family during the holidays is sharing the “family lore”: funny or poignant stories of past events. When seniors have no living relatives, it means they can no longer share that story of the time the dog tipped the Christmas tree over or that time when Uncle Joe’s Santa beard fell off and revealed him as a fraud to the shocked young cousins. You can step in and act as a surrogate family member by asking to see family photos and encouraging the senior to tell you stories about the people and events pictured.

Problem: No way for a senior shut-in to volunteer during the holidays

Solution: Perform acts of charity from the living room

Many people volunteer for charity work during the holidays. If a senior you care for was one of the people who volunteered, he or she may feel they are missing out on a key part of their traditional holiday experience.

You can help them by participating in acts of charity right from their residence. They can buy a box of holiday cards and address them to troops stationed overseas. Or they can crochet blankets for babies at the children’s hospital. When you help them perform an activity that ‘gives back’ to the community, you let them engage in a meaningful way with the holidays and may boost their self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.

Of course, while caring for a lonely senior during the holiday season, it can be difficult to maintain professional boundaries. You may want to “go the extra mile” to express your fondness for some of your clients, but do not give or accept gifts if your employer’s policy prohibits it. Remember your presence in a senior’s life may be the greatest gift of all—no other present necessary.

How do you brighten the holidays for your clients? What challenges do you face? Tell us more in the comments!


Top 5 Tips for Caregivers During the Holidays

Top 5 Tips for Caregivers During the HolidaysJust when you had more than enough to do, the holidays rolled around with just a few more items that seem like only you can do them.

Here are five things to remember during this busy time so you can still enjoy the season:

  1. Are you caring for someone living with dementia? Since dementia can affect the five senses, it’s a good idea to keep events familiar and minimize stimuli so there are fewer chances for this person to become upset or agitated—and potentially contribute to additional stress.
  2. Do less. You can either decide that some decorating or traditions aren’t going to take place this year, or hire help to take on some of those responsibilities. Those seemingly little things add up and before you know it, you’ve spent hours gift wrapping, addressing cards, or stringing lights. Delegate what can be done by someone else. Maybe ask a trusted loved one to pick up a visiting relative from the airport, for example.
  3. Use this time to communicate with the whole family about care needs—yours, the one for whom you care, or others in the family. Perhaps you look so capable that others haven’t been stepping up. Now’s the time to ask them to give you a break—maybe just during their seasonal visit or on a more regular basis.
  4. Whether you’re just visiting or remain as the primary caregiver after the holidays, plan now to spend time helping with cleaning up the decorations and preparing for the new year. This is a good time to do a safety check in the house by looking for tripping or slipping hazards, checking batteries on smoke detectors, and setting up medical appointments.
  5. Give yourself—and others—the gift of rest. This doesn’t have to be a hectic time and trying to do it all can possibly create anxiety around the holiday. Engage in easy activities, such as taking walks or calling loved ones who can’t join you—to spice up the day and bring joy.

Source: Homewatch Care Givers

How to Stay Sane During the Holidays as a Sandwich Generation Caregiver

If one can believe the old Westerns, frontier women were the ultimate multi-taskers. They could rock a cradle with their foot to quiet a squalling baby while pounding out bread dough with their fists, minding a full crew of young kids and maybe dodging a few bullets in the process. Oh, yeah, and since it was just days before Christmas, these women would also be knitting gifts for the family during odd bits of time.

That scenario sounds like a walk in the park compared to the lives of some modern caregivers, especially those who belong to the sandwich generation. These men and women work overtime to raise children while caring for their aging parents. During the holiday season, nearly every parent has one, if not several, school holiday performances to attend and church or other religious programs to participate in. Many have a full-time job, which often requires attendance at office functions outside of work hours, not to mention festivities during work time that require a big smile and a batch of homemade cookies. Sound familiar? All of this is expected in addition to maintaining traditions and holiday cheer at home.

Prior to an aging parent’s health issues, the busy season described above would be a “normal” Christmas for you and your family. Things would be rushed but still mostly pleasant. Not now. The house sits undecorated, your favorite cookie recipes have been swept into a corner on the kitchen counter, you’re behind on your holiday shopping and when you attend your kids’ programs, you fight to make yourself look like you actually want to be there. The addition of caregiving is often the tipping point between enjoying the holiday season and teetering on the edge of insanity.

Caregivers Tend to Spread Themselves Too Thin

You think back. Mom had always been helpful, doing some of the baking and stepping in when you needed help with the kids. Dad was good natured and would even pitch in with some decorating tasks when your husband was traveling. Now your parents both need help. Lots of help. Your kids still need you. Your spouse needs you. You feel like everyone wants a piece of you. You feel angry and that leads to guilt. Why does this feel so unfair? And where is the will to celebrate? What’s a caregiver to do?

You know this is your new normal, at least for the present. And it’s still the holiday season. Somehow, you must carry on and make it special for your children and your parents. It’s tough, but it is possible to find a balance and stick to it.

Getting used to this new normal will take some sacrifices from everyone in your family. It’s important to have a frank discussion with your kids and your spouse. If your parents are still cognitively sound, it’s important to talk with them, too, even if they aren’t keen on hearing you out. Tell them that you love them and that this holiday season will still be fun and special, but that it’ll be a little different compared to previous years.

Accept That the Holidays Have Changed

Your kids will understand if you only make a few different types of cookies this year rather than your usual massive spread. Just focus on the favorites. When decorating, don’t let storage bins full of lights and ornaments overwhelm you. Pick out your favorite decorations that mean the most to your family and ask the kids to pick out a few of their favorite items as well. Even if the holiday celebrations have been downsized, you’ll know that the most important traditions are still intact.

Include your kids in the cooking, decorating and visiting with your elders. If you can convince them to do something for their grandparents, that is even better. Having a few extra pairs of hands to help is a game changer, so dictate a few tasks for your kids to do around your house and your parents’ place(s).

Learning to say no to invitations or at least scale back on your commitments is important, too. Consider allowing someone else to host the big family dinner, purchasing your dish for the office potluck instead of making it yourself, or asking other close families if your kids could tag along for holiday activities like the tree lighting ceremony or ice skating.

Because I had so many elders to care for at once, I had several apartments and rooms at long-term care facilities to decorate. My house got less attention. Baking got whittled down to the classics as well. My own Christmas cards got short shrift. But my sons, my elders and I enjoyed this time together and that is what’s most important.

Likely, you will find you must follow a similar pattern. You can’t do everything the same as you did when the kids were young and your parents were healthy. Life has changed. Accepting that change is your first step toward keeping your sanity. In the end, you may find that a more low-key approach to the holidays leads to the development of new traditions. The upside of focusing less on the food, frills and gifts is that you have more time to spend with the people you love.

The Holidays Will Go On

If you find yourself feeling guilty or running low on holiday spirit, it may help to reflect on holidays past. How did your parents cope with the aging of their own parents? Remember when you were in grade school and Grandma had a heart attack? You weren’t stunted for life because your mom couldn’t complete all the traditional duties for the family that Christmas. You instinctively understood. Maybe this peek at real life even helped you grow and learn how family steps up to care for one another.

Holidays are undeniably hard work. When you add elder care to the mix, the most wonderful time of the year can seem like anything but. The only way I know of to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to determine what really matters to you and your family and only do those things. Do as much for your parents as you can, but if they have in-home care or live in a long-term care facility, let the professional staff do their part. Do as much as you can for your kids, but let them grow up a little and witness the cycle of life and the demands that elder care places on you. It’s likely that your family doesn’t truly understand the lengths you go to to ensure everyone is healthy and happy. A glimpse behind the veil might awaken in them a whole new sense of appreciation for all that you do.

Source: AgingCare by Carol Bradley Bursack

How to Reduce Loneliness in Elders Around the Holidays

There is a lot of pressure on people to enjoy themselves during the holidays. The reality, however, is that many people feel increasingly isolated and unhappy during this season of goodwill, and elders can have an especially hard time.

While aging can bring wisdom and experience, there are inevitable losses that even the healthiest seniors face. Loved ones and friends fall ill and pass away. Energy and mobility levels often decrease, resulting in feelings of lost independence and opportunities. Neighborhoods change over time, leaving even those well enough to remain in their own homes feeling lonely. The focus on family, friends and togetherness during this time of year can actually bring melancholy feelings to the forefront.

If you believe that your parent, spouse, friend or neighbor may be depressed, there are steps that you can take to help lift their spirits. You are probably busy with your own holiday preparations, but it’s important to remember what the holiday season is truly about. Simplifying some of your plans will allow you to focus on what really matters: the important people in your life. Use these ideas to brighten up a loved one’s winter season.

12 Tips to Enhance a Senior’s Holiday Experience

  1. Make a point of actively listening when they want to talk, even if the discussion is negative. An honest and empathetic conversation can help them process what is bothering them, whether they are mourning a loss or coming to terms with new challenges in their life. It may also reveal why they are feeling down and help you devise other ways to lift their spirits.
  2. Remind them how important they are as a part of your life, your family members’ lives and these annual holiday celebrations. They may feel useless or burdensome if they cannot contribute to or fully participate in the festivities like they used to. Encourage them to do what they are capable of, and be especially careful not to act like what you do for them is a duty. Show them they are loved.
  3. Over the years, holiday cards often bring bad news and diminish in quantity. I used to sit with my mom when she opened her cards, because so many of them brought news of illness or death. She was also keenly aware of the people she didn’t hear from. Be gentle with your loved ones if these annual greetings are an important tradition of theirs. If possible, ask other family members and friends to contribute a simple card, photograph or drawing to help keep the senior’s seasonal mail more upbeat. My mom needed this connection with her life-long friends, so I helped her write her outgoing cards each year as well.
  4. Help them see that you are trying to simplify your holiday plans to focus on the real meaning of these celebrations. Let them know you are trying to ignore the increasing hype over the food, gifts, decorations and parties in order to focus on the people and values that you cherish. Remind them that they taught you the importance of family and friendship, and thank them for that.
  5. If a senior is in a long-term care facility, check with the activities director and local schools or extracurricular programs to see if they can arrange for children to visit with or even perform for the residents. New activities and interactions with younger generations can be very uplifting for an elder who is in physical or emotional pain. If possible, take the senior out to school programs and games, especially if they feature younger family members.
  6. Check with your loved one’s religious organization to see if they can offer social and/or spiritual support. For example, the Stephen Ministry is a program offered by many Christian churches that provides one-on-one support to those who are having difficulties in life. Many churches can arrange for a congregant or leader to visit a senior in need at home or in a facility. Just having someone to talk to can go a long way toward relieving depression.
  7. Help them add decorative touches to their home or room in the long-term care facility. Ensure that they do not present a safety hazard and try to decorate in stages to prolong the fun and give them something to look forward to. Many seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack cherished decorations, so be sure to listen to their stories and ask about special items.
  8. Cook traditional baked goods or treats with your loved one, if possible. If they reside in an assisted living facility or nursing home, bring treats on your visits for your elder to enjoy and share with their friends.
  9. Call your elder’s friends and see if they would be able to come to a small holiday gathering. One year, I was able to use a small conference room at the nursing home to host a New Year’s Eve party for my parents and their friends. They loved it. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be on a particular holiday or a large or expensive shindig. Realizing that the people they care about came out to spend time with them is priceless for an elder. Just be wary of large or loud groups if your loved one has dementia. Parties can be disorienting and upsetting for them.
  10. Make their dinner table special. Whether your loved ones live at home or in a facility, try to make their dining table festive with some appropriate colors, themes and seasonal flavors.
  11. The most important thing you can do with a senior to make them feel loved and included this season is to spend time with them. Look at family photos, watch home videos or holiday movies, listen to seasonal music, or do crafts together. Regardless of what you decide to do together, any time you can spare is a precious gift.

Do what you can to help your aging loved one feel involved and get into the holiday spirit without stressing yourself beyond your limits. If you put too much on your plate, it is likely that neither you nor your loved ones will enjoy the festivities nearly as much. Your best efforts are good enough.

Source: AgingCare

How Giving Thanks Can Improve Your Health

As we enter the season of thanksgiving (including The Day itself), we are told repeatedly to count our blessings and practice gratitude. Many of us stop to consider all we have to be thankful for only for a moment on the fourth Thursday of November. But does the act of giving thanks provide benefits beyond a momentary acknowledgement of the good in our lives? Can a daily practice of gratitude actually improve our health?

Many experts think so. One of the main scientists exploring the phenomenon of giving thanks is Robert Emmons, who has studied the topic extensively. His book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, chronicles the studies he’s done that have convinced him that gratitude “is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

Emmons is far from alone in his enthusiasm for gratitude. Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an integrative pediatrician and founder of the Whole Child Center, is also an advocate. According to Rosen, there are at least five benefits of gratitude that have scientific studies to back them up.

  • Gratitude reduces depression.
  • Gratitude engenders a feeling of peace.
  • Gratitude aids in restful sleep.
  • Gratitude improves heart health.
  • Gratitude strengthens memory.

So, how does one practice the art of gratitude?

One of the practices that Mr. Emmons extols is the gratitude journal. Oprah Winfrey has been talking about her personal experiences with a gratitude journal for years. The goal here is to set aside some time every day and write down several things you’re grateful for. According to Emmons, the act of writing “allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”

Here are some other tips to keep you on the road of practicing gratitude:

Create visual cues

The toils of daily life can make us quickly forget all we have to be grateful for. So, remind yourself every day with visual reminders. This could be a photograph, a physical token of a feel-good moment (such as a souvenir from a wonderful vacation), or even just a Post-It note listing something for which you’re grateful.

Get support

Surround yourself with people who practice gratitude on a daily basis. Hearing someone share what they’re thankful for (especially if they’re facing a challenge) will remind you of all the blessings in your own life.

Give freely of yourself

Be conscious of the “emotional wake” you leave in the word. Smile at strangers and notice their reaction. Being conscious of how your actions affect others will naturally lead to others being grateful for you, which is the one of the greatest gifts of all.

Gratitude is like any other discipline – it takes practice! It starts with being awake and aware of the world around you and the beauty that is available for all us to share.


Traveling With a Senior Loved One

Most of us have a limited amount of time and money we’re able to spend on travel. If you have parents who live far from home, the desire to spend time with them means there’s even less time for you to just run off and have a “real” vacation. Or, if you’re a caregiver looking after parents who live near you, you may feel as if you’re never able to get away due to your responsibilities.

For both groups, there’s a new solution that’s gaining popularity – traveling with your elderly parents. Of course, this comes with its own set of challenges, but many discover that a change of scenery can still provide the break they need. Many also find that traveling with their parents brings them closer together and provides opportunities to share experiences that last a lifetime.

Traveling with an aging parent does require a bit more planning. First, of course, you’ll want to consult with your parent’s physician to ensure that traveling is even an option. If the doctor gives a green light, here are some tips that can make your trip one you’ll remember (fondly) for years to come.

Make it a family affair. To share the caregiving responsibilities, invite other family members to join you. Having siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles along to share the load provides more opportunity for you to relax and enjoy yourself. As a side benefit, a family reunion provides opportunities to connect with other relatives you might not see very often.

Make sure your loved one has everything they need. Before you hit the road, make sure your loved one has all their medications and any health accessories (walker, oxygen tank, hearing aids, etc.) they need to fully experience and enjoy the trip. If you’re flying, contact the airline in advance to arrange for a wheelchair or other assistance your loved one may need. Be aware of any surgical implants that might set off a metal detector.

Pack lightly. Traveling with an elder often means helping carry their bags, making sure they have their travel documents, and ensuring they don’t wander off. With all that going on, you don’t need the added burden of too much luggage. Encourage your loved on to take only essentials – and it helps to travel to a place where it’s warm, so clothing can be light. Make sure you have anything that your loved one will need while traveling – a favorite snack, medications, a neck pillow – in a bag that can be carried onboard, if flying, or a small bag that can ride with the senior in a car or bus.

Schedule some downtime. Once you’ve reached your destination, make it a point to plan some downtime and let your loved one know that each day will include some time for a nap, or just sitting and reading a book. Setting this expectation will not only provide you with more free time, but will also give your loved one “permission” to relax as well.

Enjoy yourself. If you’re a child who doesn’t see your parent often, use this as a time to enjoy their company. Focus on your time together and recognize it as an opportunity to reconnect and grow closer. If you’re a caregiver who sees your parent every day, appreciate the change of scenery and use it as an opportunity to share life experiences that may not be as easy to do in the midst of a daily routine.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Useful Holiday Gifts for Loved Ones with Health Challenges

Holiday shopping—at the pharmacy? Loyola University Medical Center experts offer tips for practical, inexpensive gifts for loved ones who are recovering from an injury or living with a chronic illness.

For the 133 million Americans who are living with chronic conditions today, the best holiday gift is something that will make navigating a daily routine easier. “Sweaters, pajamas, candy and perfume are all very nice, traditional and thoughtful gifts, but if you want to really show them you are concerned about their well-being, check out your local pharmacy for gifts they’ll use every day,” said Debbie Jansky, assistant nurse manager of home health services at Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

Jansky and her team of 35 registered nurses, therapists, social workers and home health aides make about 1,600 home visits each month to those who need skilled nursing or physical therapy in their home. “It’s very sad to see patients receive gifts of expensive perfume or cardigans that they will never enjoy because they can’t open the bottle or unbutton the buttons,” Jansky said.

Jansky regularly recommends several items that can be purchased at your local pharmacy. “These are used and appreciated every day,” she reports.

Here are Jansky’s top picks for holiday gifts, with suggested prices:

  • Medication organizers ($1.50 – $10). Help Mom or Dad keep track of all their pills. Available in daily or weekly sizes and in different shapes, these tools will give the whole family peace of mind that the right pill is being taken at the right time.
  • Pill cutter ($3). Many pills and tablets need to be halved or quartered. These handy devices offer precise cutting with minimal effort.
  • Pill punch ($8). “Many medications come in a multipunch card that those with arthritis have trouble manipulating,” said Clark Chrisman, pharmacist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. “The pill punch easily pushes the individual pill through the sealed packaging.”
  • ID bracelet ($7 and up). A simple piece of jewelry alerts medics to important medical information such as allergies to penicillin, congestive heart failure or diabetes.
  • Item grabber ($28). These sturdy, clawlike hand tools can be used to retrieve a box of crackers from the top shelf or fish out a slipper that was kicked too far under the couch.
  • Adjustable cane ($27). These canes compress to a 5-inch-long stick, much like a collapsible umbrella. Small enough to place in a purse or coat pocket, they can be quickly assembled to provide support.
  • Medication coolers (around $45). Keep insulin or other medications cool and organized for easy use.
  • Rollator ($160). A luxurious walker with high-quality wheels and brakes, with a basket for shopping and a handy bench to stop and rest.
  • Accessible bathroom aids ($27-$100). Handheld water sprayers, toilet seat benches and bathtub safety rails may look insignificant in their box, but install them in the bathroom, and you have created a safe haven that will be appreciated.

Speak with the pharmacist with questions about specific items. He or she may have other great ideas, as well.

Source: Loyola University Health System (Loyola). Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, it is a nationally recognized leader in providing specialty and primary health-care services.


Why Do We Get Our Flu Shot in the Fall?

Cooler weather, falling leaves, children in their back-to-school finery … these are all things we associate with autumn. Healthcare personnel also think of fall as the time for patients to be vaccinated for the annual seasonal flu.

Have you ever wondered why flu season in the U.S. peaks during the fall and winter months? Scientists have asked the same question. Is it because children return to school and “share” the virus? Is it because people are cooped up in closer proximity to one another during the colder winter months? Or perhaps the lower levels of light affect our immune systems? Researchers from Virginia Tech recently studied the relationship between flu outbreaks and humidity. They found that the virus thrives very well in low humidity—making our dry, heated homes the perfect condition for the flu to spread. (On the other hand, the virus also survives in very high humidity, which may be why flu season peaks during the rainy season in tropical climates.)

No matter what the reason for the timing of flu season, it’s wise to be vaccinated at the recommended time. Seniors are at highest risk of complications from the flu, and 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people older than 65. Talk to your healthcare provider about the flu vaccine you should receive. You can also visit to learn more about the risks of the flu in older adults, the importance of annual vaccination, and available vaccine options.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2013

Nine Tips to Help Someone Who Is Grieving During the Holidays

Hospice professionals offer advice

For many people, the holiday season is a special time of year marked by celebrations and gatherings with family and friends. But for those struggling with the death of a loved one, the holidays may be a difficult time full of painful reminders that emphasize their sense of loss.

Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays.
Hospice professionals, who are experienced at helping people deal with grief and loss, offer some suggestions:

  1. Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to do things differently.
  2. Offer to help the person with decorating or holiday baking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving.
  3. Offer to help with holiday shopping. Share catalogs or online shopping sites that may be helpful.
  4. Invite the person to join you or your family during the holidays. You might invite them to join you for a religious service or at a holiday meal where they are a guest.
  5. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
  6. Donate a gift or money in memory of the person’s loved one. Remind the person that his or her loved one is not forgotten.
  7. Never tell someone that he or she should be “over it.” Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
  8. Be willing to listen. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping some cope with grief and heal.
  9. Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.

In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care and that their loved one is not forgotten.

Many people are not aware that their community hospice is a valuable resource that can help people who are struggling with grief and loss. More information about grief or hospice is available from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Caring Connections website (

Source: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization