“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
from William Graves
The holiday season is upon us and many of us will find ourselves on the road to celebrate with family and friends or acting as hosts for celebrations throughout the New Year. As we prepare to make merry or to hide ourselves away from the overly merry, the holidays also offer some opportunities for all of us to create inclusive spaces for friends and family to celebrate as well as a time for planning and continued inclusion of older adults and people with disabilities in the New Year. To finish off 2017 we are giving some suggestions for enjoying the holidays as well as thoughts for the future form our friends at the NAB!
Tips for the Holidays
- Keeping Accessibility in place for everyone.
During the holiday season we will be opening our homes to friends and relatives, while at the same time augmenting our homes with many different elements of festive cheer. While the use of candles, garlands, spirits, buffet tables and New Year’s decorations will make our spaces more festive they also have the chance of creating barriers to access or even create dangerous hurdles to be navigated by family and friends. Simple decorations can easily turn into obstacles especially when traversing a space in which you have not been in a while. . Take some time to think critically about decorations and the spaces you are creating during the holiday season as well as the needs of individuals (young and old) who may be visiting. Make sure that there are clear paths that can be used by all family, friends and guests, and should it be necessary, take some time to think about any new needs that family members may have and how to best prepare for them. This may include making sure food and drink is accessible to everyone, keeping light strings or cords out of paths of travel, making things reachable for people using wheelchairs or walkers, or even simply making sure that there is always an extra set of hands to help if requested.
“During a time when there is great uncertainty about the future of health care in America, it is comforting to know that at least one company is committed to actions that uphold its moral character. Just as Pearl Buck observed that the measure of a nation is how it treats its weakest members, so too can it be said that the measure of a health insurance company is determined by how it treats its most vulnerable members.” – Chuck Christiansen
- Giving the gift of Well-Being
Our friends at NAMI remind us that “or many, the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of the year but can place a spotlight on everything that is difficult while the pressure to be joyful and social is overwhelming. Take some time to make sure that you have everything in place for you to have a restful and fulfilling holiday and watch for depression and the Holiday Blues.
2. Considering Alternatives for Holiday traditions
Often times during the holidays families can get swept up into traditions or “doing things as they have always been done.” Though this indeed brings a comfort and a call back to childhood, life changes such as the addition of new family members or the developments of disabilities due to aging or injury may bring about the need to alter some family traditions. Think critically about the needs of all of your guests, and if necessary consider ways in which you can keep holiday traditions inclusive of everyone but also address any functional needs that would keep them from enjoying the occasion. One of the best examples of this we saw this year was in the story of Kerry Magro, and autistic man, who plays Santa Claus to provide a holiday experience that will work better for children with autism. Kerry’s approach to creating a sensory friendly holiday experience is one that we may all consider especially with the overwhelming experience that the holiday season can be for many.
A Justin Dart said, “Get involved in politics as if your life depended on it, because it does” – Chuck Graham
4. Including Checking in with Family as part of your New Year’s Resolutions
The holidays can also be an opportunity to check in on our loved ones and assess if more formal or informal supports may be needed to assist them in maintaining their quality of life. In recent articles in USA Today and Forbes, their writers suggest using the holidays as a time to seek out red flags to determine if your aging parent should not be living alone. This could mean finding additional supports, considering the role of a child as a distance caregiver, and making sure both the desires of the child and the aging parent are clear and known to everyone.
Once you have the initial conversation about plans, make a resolution to make definite steps in the New Year. As Holly Gallagher said in a recent article, “as your parents get older, discussing their plans for the future and the role you will play in their care is essential. Without the proper strategy, this caretaking burden can lead to undue emotional and financial stress.” Make it a regular part of your holidays!