The holidays are frantic and stressful for everyone. If you are disabled or chronically ill, the holidays can present additional stress and potential health risks for you. For the caretaker of a chronically ill person the holiday can add another level of complexity and stress to your already busy life. No one wants to be a Grinch during this time of the year, but it is important to take some extra precautions and preparation to cope.
Per a recent article in the Huffington Post called “5 Ways the Holidays Are Hard on Those with a Chronic Disease (and 10 Ways to Cope)” the author provides advice on how to deal with the barrage of food, activity and traveling that may occur.
Food: Food is at the heart of nearly all holiday celebrations, and usually steaming mounds of not-so-healthy foods like sugary sweet potatoes. Desserts and sweet drinks are in abundance. For a person with a chronic disease, the variety of foods may be tempting or forbidden, or may just strike terror in our hearts or feelings of being bothered. If you’re staying in a hotel, you might be relegated to eating the in-house free breakfast that doesn’t accommodate your diet.
Traveling: Sitting in a car or on a plane for long periods of time can be the breeding ground for physical pain or, at minimum, provide ample time to worry about one’s disease. Traveling also means a change of routine and a lot of unpredictability and extra stress. For example, flying means I have to go through security at the airport, go through a pat-down while the rest of my family stands by waiting, and explain to multiple personnel what my disease is, what my devices do, and no, they cannot be removed from my body for inspection. Time zone and altitude changes can also be difficult.
Activity: Some holiday celebrations include activities which might be out of your typical routine: skiing, going from house-to-house visiting relatives, power-shopping with your mom on Black Friday. These activities can cause your disease to flare-up in undesirable ways, zapping your energy and bringing down your mood. 
For the caregiver who is constantly on call, the holidays just might seem like too much. If you know a caregiver the best thing to do this time of year is help. Perhaps offer to cook, shop, or just spend time with them. Many caregivers get burned out and need a break. Some suggestions for caregivers on how to avoid burnout this time of year are found in a great article by Empowher.com called “3 Steps to Avoiding Caregiver Burnout during the Holidays.” The three biggest things to remember is know the signs of when you need a break, take care of yourself, and remember to ask for help. This is often easier said than done for many caregivers. Resources for help can be found at “The National Family Caregiver Association offers many tips and guides on how to take charge and effectively communicate with caregivers. Log on to www.thefamilycaregiver.org or call them at 800-896-3650.” The following great tips were found on Everydayhealth.com:
*Eat healthy and try to exercise every day.
*Indulge in an enjoyable activity as often as you can – read a book, work on a hobby, or watch a movie.
*Pamper yourself with a massage or manicure.
*Keep a journal to record your thoughts and feelings. This can be a good outlet for
* Be in touch with your own body and know when you are becoming ill or run down;
seek medical advice in a timely manner.
*If applicable seek support from your church or synagogue. Besides spiritual support, they often have programs to help caregivers.
*Remember that “laughter is the best medicine.” Try to find some humor in daily situations.
*Join a support group. If you can’t leave the house explore Internet options.
If you know a caregiver or chronically ill person, please remember that one of the best things you can offer this holiday season is love, support, time and help.