Christmas with a senior, or how to combine Christmas challenges and caring responsibilities?

Shopping, cleaning, decorating the house, cooking, decorating the Christmas tree, preparing gifts – these are just some of the additional activities that we have to face in the pre-Christmas period. And then there are permanent obligations. Many of us care for the elderly who need intensive care every day. How to take care of the Christmas atmosphere without losing your health and well-being?

  • Holidays are a special time of the year when we strengthen bonds with our loved ones, share positive feelings and spend time together. However, we often forget that this is the most important thing, not what the dishes will accompany us and what gifts we will find under the Christmas tree. With a senior under the care of a senior, it is worth asking yourself what will make you feel good this Christmas, and the days will pass calmly and in a pleasant atmosphere . Perhaps it is worth resigning from visits of a dozen or so family members this year for the benefit of only the closest ones, and instead of expensive gifts, persuade them to buy the most necessary items for everyday care? At the Carers' Academy, we also remind you that the health and well-being of the guardian is as important as the mentee. This applies to both natural and professional caregivers. Regardless of whether it is our job or we care for a family member, we must remember ourselves. About not straining yourself, not risking your own health when there is no such need. It's easy to forget about it during the holiday season. Let's take our time, let's measure our strengths, let's first and foremost take care of our and our senior's good emotions – explains Iwona Przybyło, a certified nurse from the Carers' Academy, an organization dealing with specialized support for carers of the elderly.

1. Tradition is no more important than health

Christmas is a time when we usually too much. Maybe this year it doesn't have to be like that? Let's also think about choosing dishes that are as tasty and more digestive-friendly as possible. Poles are changing their eating habits – according to the latest Nielsen report, as many as 44% of households in Poland prepare healthier dishes for Christmas Eve, thinking about adjusting them to the age of the guests. Be one of them. There are also more and more on Polish tables. For example, instead of fried carp in fat, it will be easier and healthier to prepare baked fillets from the oven with almonds. Fortunately, fish is one of the most important ingredients that accompany Christmas and helps you maintain a balanced diet, so feel free to experiment and prepare light, simple and healthy fish dishes. When cooking dried compote, look for fruits that will not be sweetened in the production process, and set aside white sugar to sweeten the stock with a little or a substitute in the form of stevia or xylitol. You can use a similar procedure with cakes. Mushroom soup or red borscht will still be delicious, even if it is served without caloric additives: pasta or dumplings, e.g. in a glass or a mug. When preparing Christmas Eve dishes, we should learn more about the eating habits of our guests. Many elderly people have diabetes and therefore follow a diabetic diet. Some of the products may be very inappropriate for them, e.g. the above-mentioned dried fruit, which we often use when cooking Christmas delicacies. A successful lunch or dinner also depends on moderation. Low-calorie dishes in the right amounts will certainly improve the mood of the guests, and if we feel well, a pleasant atmosphere is guaranteed.

2. Let us help ourselves

It's very easy to overloadtherefore if we can give up some additional tasks then let's do it. Do not get involved in extra-routine duties, such as cleaning the wardrobe or rearranging furniture a few days before Christmas. Moving large items in an apartment can also distort the orientation of an elderly person. The arrangement of furniture in the house should be adapted to the elderly's mobility. During the pre-Christmas preparations, it is also worth making sure that you can spend the same amount of time with the senior as usual. Many people with dementia react badly to being left alone in a room. So it is difficult to plan kitchen work. Taking the resident with you to the kitchen can help. If he or she has difficulty moving, you can rent a stroller for the holiday season, which will accompany you in different parts of the apartment. If you do not have one at home, there are medical equipment rentals in every major city, where you can borrow equipment to help you move around for a small fee. The possibility of accompanying us in the housework will reassure the senior.

The person we care for can also help us actively prepare for the holidays. Of course, these tasks need to be adapted to age and health, but those who feel better can take part in lighter cleanups. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to ask an elderly person to sort old photos or letters. Small activities will not harm the senior you are caring for, and will certainly improve their well-being and self-esteem. Thanks to this, you will avoid dealing with simple, everyday duties, and at the same time you will have the opportunity to praise and appreciate for your help. A little physical effort will improve your mood thanks to the additional oxygenation of the brain.

Use the time spent together to talk about the upcoming holidays. Many people may have problems recognizing and remembering the names of their relatives, so it is worth showing photos, telling what they do – introducing them to the situation for the next few days.

3. Practical Christmas gifts for seniors

Comfortable slippers, a warm sweater or are a standard gift for some seniors. However, it is worth considering what will help in everyday situations. An original and practical gift will make the recipient happy and help them function normally. Research conducted in November this year shows that we will spend as much as PLN 137 on gifts for parents and the elderly. This is PLN 100 less than for gifts for children, but still a lot1. Maybe in this case, a better solution would be to donate something that is less expensive but still has many advantages. It's a good idea to buy a large calendar where you can write down notes every day. Take a few minutes to write down important dates: birthdays, name days and wedding anniversaries of your loved ones, and invite them to write meticulous notes throughout the year. Such an exercise will support memory processes, and the mentee will keep track of time and will not forget about important celebrations. If your senior likes reading, you can make his pleasure easier. In many online stores you can easily find gadgets such as a handy magnifier with LED backlight, a magnifying screen or a magnifier permanently attached to the table top (these are expenses whose price range starts from PLN 25). Going one step further, you can buy special editions of books with large letters for people with vision problems. However, if your mentee is unable to read independently, buy electronic versions of books, i.

e. audiobooks.

  • Literary hobbies do not have to end with failing eyesight. In caring for an elderly person it is important to maketaking into account his interests and adjusting the conditions to the current state of health. If our student was interested in music in the past, give him a CD with recordings of his favorite artists and remind him that it can be played at any time. Returning to memories, to favorite sounds is not only an exercise in memory, it is also recalling pleasant moments. A good and extraordinary gift idea may be to cook a dish from the senior's family home or home – says Iwona Przybyło.
  • All gifts that help recall memories will have an additional plus – they will serve as a memory exercise. You can also prepare an album in which the photos arranged chronologically will act like a recreated film of all the moments so far – he continues.

4. Spend this time together

Gifts are a great Christmas accessory, but none of them can replace the time spent together. When the apartment is clean and the is cooked, give yourself time to talk together. Remember the previous holidays, talk about your plans for the next year, and remember to stick to the same day mode.

– Despite the fact that holidays are an extraordinary time, remember to follow the daily routine so as not to disturb the senior's orientation. The constant rhythm of the day ensures a sense of security. The accumulation of new situations, new people and new habits may disturb the student's peace of mind. If you find yourself in an unusual situation for your current habits, try to explain exactly why this is happening. Answer the questions calmly and give your senior time to understand the new realities – adds Iwona Przybyło.

5. It is worth agreeing with the family what the Christmas visit should look like. Visits must be enjoyable and not tiring. If we suspect that some situations may upset the elderly, we should warn the relatives about it and explain that irritability and even aggression may be caused by fatigue or simply due to the disease. Experts from the Carers' Academy encourage you to prepare a place for seniors where they can find peace and rest from the hustle and bustle of the holidays . And if we want to combine business with pleasure, let's watch family photos together or show our favorite movie.

The Academy of Carers supports caregivers of the elderly in developing competences and skills, and also works to increase social awareness in the field of gerontology, with particular emphasis on dementia. The mission of the Academy is to provide people who care for the elderly with specialist knowledge in accessible and practical form. For this purpose, we create proprietary activation programs for people living with dementia, we train and advise. We believe that thanks to a better understanding of aging processes combined with practical skills useful in everyday work, the caregiver will not only be better at performing everyday duties, but will also be better fulfilled in this job.

The Academy is based in Krakow and supports training courses organized for the staff of Nursing Homes, Care and Treatment Institutions, day care homes and specialized centers for people with dementia, as well as cooperation with commercial entities. Among others, since 2015, the Academy has been cooperating with ATERIMA MED, providing its care staff with specialist substantive support while working in Germany, as well as organizing specialized language courses.

Thanks to this, we learn about good practices and standards of care in countries with a higher standard of living and the scope of social benefits,which we can later share in Poland.

We organize trainings, workshops and symposia, inviting scientists and practitioners of various specialties to cooperate with us, including neurologists, biologists, nutritionists, physiotherapists and others. Many of the events organized by the Academy are open, so family carers can take part in them. We are also applying for public grants for the implementation of projects aimed at supporting carers of the elderly.

Population aging is a natural and at the same time inevitable process that all of Europe is struggling with. We want Poland to be a country where the elderly will be provided with care in accordance with the latest world knowledge, also in their own home. We strive to disseminate good practices, system solutions and standards, setting the direction of care provided at the highest level. We would like Polish carers working in the country and abroad to have high competences, and thanks to them, the possibility of decent and well-paid work.