The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holidays, Feasting, Families and Fun

Feasting is a common part of our holidays, starting with that turkey and all the fixin's at you probably had for Thanksgiving. Family can be a wonderful blessing but often our expectations outreach reality, especially at holiday times when we want everything to be perfect. And finally, what is “fun” changes as one’s body and responses to stimuli changes.

Feasting: While this can still be a part of the agenda, consider changes in the kinds of food and the times it is eaten. Holiday food tends to be filled with simple carbohydrates  (sugars, high fructose corn syrup and white sugar). It is becoming clear that these foods are not supportive of good health in general, and especially not of good cognition. Don't forgo these traditional foods entirely.
  • Just use smaller helpings and resist seconds. 
  • Then balance them with other more healthy foods that are also traditional, like fresh fruit, nuts, and winter vegetables like squash.
The proteins and saturated fats (think “animal fats”) that play a prominent part in holiday meals can leave a person feeling sluggish, fatigued and can interfere with normally effective medication. Dopamine and protein share “carriers” for crossing the intestinal wall and the blood brain barrier. Competition for these carriers will delay or reduce the medication’s effect. Meals that are high in saturated fat take longer to digest, thus delaying medication absorption.
  • Administer medication away from meal time, with a small amount of food to avoid nausea. 
  • Consider serving fish like cod or salmon, and using omega-3 fatty acids such as olive oil instead of saturated fats whenever you can. The omega-3s digest easily and fish digests in about half the time as it takes for other proteins.
Families, friends and socializing are important but they can also be huge triggers for stress. We all know that the person with a Lewy body disorder has a low tolerance for stress. So do their care partners, not because of the disorder but because caregiving is already stressful. When families come to visit, stress can occur when expectations end in disappointments, spending leads to financial pressures, or unresolved family-of-origin issues pop up. To limit holiday related stress:
  • Diffuse some soothing lavender or rosemary into the air. 
  • Practice deep breathing or add some soothing massage sessions, for you and your loved one.
  • Ask family members and visitors to focus on pleasant subjects and avoid anything that could lead to arguments.
Fun. The holidays are times of parties and family gatherings and activities that you may not do at any other time. As physical and mental abilities fail, these activities can become more stressful than fun. As a persons reactions to sensory sensations increase, certain activities can become not only stressful but can incite unwanted behavior.
  • Think ahead and find ways to adapt. Thinking ahead can make all the difference where fun is considered.
  • Instead of the traditional gathering and big meal at your house, consider ordering prepared meal or sharing the responsibilities with other family members. (Having it at your house is still a good idea because your loved one will be most comfortable there. Just make sure there is a quiet place somewhere for when things become too confusing.)
  • If you are used to doing something challenging after the meal, like board games, or distracting like watching an exciting game on TV, consider something else, such as reviewing old family photo albums.
Self-care. Above all, take care of yourself. If you are too stressed to enjoy the holidays, you loved one won't either.

  • Review your expectations and make them realistic, given your present situation.
  • Get adequate rest. Take a nap when your loved one does!
  • Limit your activities to what you know you can tolerate. 
  • Be willing to reach out and ask for help. 
  • Look for the little things to enjoy. 
  • Consciously think of the things that you are grateful for. 
  • Hug, smile and laugh. Enjoy!

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors. As informed caregivers, they share the information here foreducational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a physician's advice.

No comments:

Post a Comment