ParentCare » Vol. 43

Everyone can enjoy the holiday season

By Liz Foss

It can be stressful to navigate the time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. There is the expectation that we feel the holiday “spirit.” But sometimes, we just don’t feel it. In fact, we might feel the opposite of “joyous.” There are many factors that contribute to those feelings. Many seniors are widowed, have lost close friends as they age, are separated from family or suffer from ill health. They may feel guilty about not feeling glad, and guilt just makes things worse.

If an older person is living with adult children and young grandchildren, he or she may hide their true feelings so as not to disrupt the family rituals. That can contribute to feeling depressed once the holidays have passed.
The adult child might be feeling overwhelmed by all the day-to-day responsibilities, as well as the additional demands of decorating, shopping, cooking and social obligations. All of the baking, entertaining and spending time with relatives we don’t often see (sometimes for good reason) can add up to a schedule packed with extra activity and responsibility. Pair that with the high expectations that most of us carry for the season, and you have a recipe for stress ~ a “stressipe” some have called it.


660228_31006018Here are some holiday survival tips:
Make a plan. Determine how much you will spend on gifts, and stick to it. Handmade or baked gifts are a great alternative, but don’t set unreasonable expectations for yourself here, either.

Just say no. You don’t have to attend every holiday party. Go to the ones that you truly enjoy.

Do the holidays bring family conflict? Don’t let others manage your holiday experience. State simply but firmly how and when family get-togethers will happen, so that you get emotional benefit from them, not emotional pain. Too much togetherness brings its own stress, as opposed to not enough togetherness, which can highlight feelings of loneliness.

Be smart about holiday eating and drinking. There are many opportunities to eat and drink to excess; don’t let the fact that it’s a holiday party get you off track.

For busy caregivers living with a senior who may be experiencing sadness or loneliness, consider hiring a companion to spend time with your loved one. This could relieve you of some responsibility when you need it most and allow your family member to socialize in the manner of his/her choosing.

Many people are relieved when the holidays are over and life returns to “normal.” Meals can be the well-loved soup and sandwich or other simple favorite. Still, we often remember holiday traditions with fond nostalgia. We just need to be ready to create new traditions when the old ones have outlived their usefulness. It can take a brave soul to call for doing something different, and sometimes, the changing needs of an older person can get that started.

Finally, thinking in terms of New Year’s resolutions, a good one to review every year is hanging on to some of that holiday spirit all year round. A joyous, positive outlook on life can outdo many medical interventions in keeping you healthy.

Liz Foss runs the Worcester area Seniors Helping Seniors, a non-medical, in-home care agency. Having worked as an accountant for nonprofits for many years, Foss now has her own business, which hires active seniors to help people remain in their homes for as long as possible. Seniors Helping Seniors provides services in Worcester County. For more information, visit, call (508) 885-6004 or email Foss at

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