Holiday Fun with Parkinson’s

Holiday time can be stressful for anyone. Especially if you have a chronic condition that can interfere with plans and/or family dynamics that cause friction, there are steps that will help make the holiday enjoyable for your entire family.

With the start of the holiday season inevitably come articles about surviving the many stressors: parties, family dynamics, gifts, food, and travel. This article focuses on how to keep the holidays alive and fun, recognizing there may be activities in which you elect not to participate.

The holidays are a time for gift giving, festive meals, family get-togethers, and travel. Some find this enjoying and fulfilling; others find it overwhelming. Both are OK.

If you have Parkinson’s it is time to think about yourself and what would suit you without forgetting about the needs of your family. Many caregivers will worry they need to accommodate any special needs you may have. This can differ from person to person because of the unique way in which Parkinson’s affects each individual. Plans get altered to manage care, which can dampen everybody’s holiday spirits.

One key to holiday enjoyment is advance planning. From shopping in small doses to planning holiday meals that are easy, stress can be reduced. Most of all remember that the best part of the season is the way it brings relatives and friends together. That’s what really matters.

Action items

Give permission

Think about the desires of those around you. They may be looking forward to attending parties, spending a day at the beach or skiing, or traveling out of town, but are reluctant to leave you behind. Give them permission to go. Tell them it would give you pleasure for them to enjoy some holiday traditions that you are no longer able to participate in. Or find a manageable alternative, like an indoor ice rink, where you could sit and enjoy watching everyone skate.

Make a list

Take note of what would give you pleasure. Perhaps you were the traditional event host. There are ways to entertain while reducing your amount of work. Let people help! Simplify the event and delegate food preparation, set up and clean up. People care more about just being together than how fancy it is.

Perhaps you prefer to bow out. Maybe there is a movie you’ve been anxious to watch, a book you need quiet to read, or other activity that you can do on your own for a few hours or a few days. If you have an announced plan for what you are looking forward to doing, including alone time, others will feel more relaxed about engaging in traditional festivities without you.

Plan in advance

You can get a lot of holiday planning done but still don’t know how you will feel on the day of any social obligations. Let your family or hosts know that your plans are subject to change, but the rest of the family will be there regardless. This way hosts can plan, and nobody gets let down unexpectedly. You can have a backup plan for how to spend your day, and schedule time to be with loved ones before or after the outside event, if you decide attending is too challenging or fatiguing on the day.

If you are traveling, preparation is the key. Bring extra medications, know where the nearest medical care is, and identify places to eat where you can enjoy the food. The more thorough your advance planning, the more likely you are to have a relaxed trip.

Buying the right gifts can be overwhelming. Rely on internet shopping. You can ask friends and family what they would like or simply give gift cards to favorite stores. Remember: your recipients will appreciate the thought to include them in giving.

Tell people what you want

Not everyone is aware of the limitations that Parkinson’s can cause. There are unique items now available to simplify daily activities for people with PD. Special utensils, larger-button phones, clothing without small buttons, and gadgets not requiring dexterity are all nice gifts that may not be obvious to your friends. They will appreciate your letting them know what you value.

It’s ok to change your mind

PD has physical and psychological implications that can affect your interest in participating. Recognizing this and explaining it to those around you can help keep the holidays running smoothly. Don’t ignore your feelings; try to explain to them so you can pace yourself and share comfortably in the celebrations.

What to remember

During the holidays it can be difficult to find the time to take care of yourself. Ask for help when you need it. Make sure to take the following steps to help you enjoy the holidays.

  • Follow your normal medication routine
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Practice stress relief techniques

Above all during these and all holidays, take time to appreciate the friends and family who care for you all the time. Allowing them the freedom to celebrate the holidays, with or without you at a given moment, can be a wonderful gift—for all of you.

View References
  1. Dolhun, R. The Holidays and Parkinson’s. Available at: https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?ask-the-md-the-holidays-and-parkinson. Accessed 11.30.18
  2. Church, M. Hiliday Stress and Parkinson’s Disease. Available at: https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?ask-the-md-the-holidays-and-parkinson. Accessed 12.1.18.
  3. De Leon, Tips for Dealing with Holiday Stress. Available at: https://parkinsonsdisease.net/living/tips-for-dealing-with-holiday-stress/. Accessed 12.1.18.
  4. Robb, K. Traveling With Parkinson’s Disease. Available at: https://www.parkinson.org/Living-with-Parkinsons/Managing-Parkinsons/Advice-for-the-Newly-Diagnosed/Traveling-with-Parkinsons. Accessed 12.1.18.
  5. Howard. Fighting Parkinson’s, and reducing your holiday stress. Available at: https://www.fightingparkinsonsdrugfree.com/2017/12/15/fighting-parkinsons-and-reducing-your-holiday-stress/. Accessed 12.2.18.
  6. Caregiver Tips for the Holidays. Available at: http://alzheimersocietyblog.ca/caregiver-tips-holidays/. Accessed 12.2.18.

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