While Christmas is an exciting time of year for most people, spent celebrating with family and friends, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety for the elderly.
TAFE NSW head teacher of Health and Nursing, Debbie Greenhalgh, said more than two-million Australians will feel socially isolated during the festive period. And has some tips to help seniors reduce their stress, stay healthy and avoid the holiday blues.
1) Rest after traveling
For some seniors, the Christmas holidays are a time to travel long distances to visit family and friends. Whether they travel by car, train or plane, keep in mind that an older relative might want to rest upon arrival. Ms Greenhalgh suggests, offering the option of watching television or taking a nap instead of planning a day of shopping and visiting, will help them relax.
2) Make homes accessible
If older relatives are visiting your home for Christmas, ensure your home is safe and accessible. Be mindful of hazards in your home. For instance, someone with a walker could trip over floor rugs. Ms Greenhalgh said, "consider having your relative sleep on the first floor of your home. If that's not possible, let them stay in a room close to the bathroom. In addition, use nightlights in the hallway so they don't stumble in the dark."
3) Stay hydrated
Drinking water is one way everyone can stay healthy during Christmas. Ms Greenhalgh said "Senior citizens need to drink plenty of fluids, as not drinking enough water could cause hospitalisation. To make it easier to stay hydrated, have water easily accessible at home and keep bottled water in the car or bag when running errands."
4) Follow dietary restrictions
Some seniors must follow special diets. It can be difficult to adhere to a diet during busy, stressful times, especially if there aren't healthy options available. "When people are stressed, they tend to overeat and don't stick to their diets," Ms Grennhalgh said. "To make it easier to follow dietary guidelines, keep healthy options like fresh-cut vegetables and fruit on hand. TAFE NSW also offers courses in aged care to help you learn practical skills to work with the elderly."
5) Stay involved
Recognise that seniors still want to feel that they are part of the annual tradition. For many, that may include helping out with Christmas preparations. "It's fine to reduce thier stress by offering to hold the event at your home instead of their's, but keep them involved by having them cook a favourite dish or help decorate the home," Ms Greenhalgh said.
For more information on nursing and aged care courses available at TAFE NSW for semester one enrolment, visit www.tafensw.edu.au or call 131 601.