Everyone has a certain tradition, food, song or memory attached to their favorite holiday. Whether it is the kids in costumes running through pumpkin patches, overeating at the fall spread of delicious foods, or carols around a beautifully lit tree, the holidays evoke many wonderful feelings. It may seem daunting to face these times with a loved one who has a terminal illness, but it doesn’t mean you automatically must forgo any celebrations. With a few preparations this holiday season can be one filled with peaceful and even joyful memories, even if you have a loved one on Hospice services. Let’s discuss how to prepare for the upcoming holiday season.
Gathering Together With Your Loved One In Hospice
One of the principles of hospice is that each patient should live to their fullest for however long they can. This means, allow them to do as much as they are still able to do and to enjoy it. Bringing the family traditions to where the patient is, will mean so much to those who are unable to travel, or even get out to see loved ones. Plan family holiday gatherings at the bedside if needed.
The sight of holiday decorations, sounds of family chatting over the giggles of the kiddos running around, and the smells of delicious food cooking in the kitchen can be a wonderful experience for a patient who is at home with hospice care. Just be sure to check in frequently to make sure not to overwhelm your loved one. If they need to rest, or take time away to nap, that is okay. They will let you know when they are ready to rejoin the festivities.
To ensure your loved one’s safety during holiday gatherings, be sure to evaluate surroundings. Make sure throw rugs are secured or removed to avoid falls. Be sure furniture is arranged to accommodate a walker or wheelchair if needed. If oxygen is in use, be sure that there are no open flames. Some chronic illnesses can cause a sensitivity to strong smells such as candles, room sprays, or even certain food scents. Check with your family member if this is the case to make sure they are not disturbed by strong odors.
Should My Loved One With Terminal Illness Eat Holiday Foods?
Who doesn’t love warm apple pie with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream piled on top, or a thick slice of pumpkin pie? Turkey fresh out of the oven, buttered rolls, dressing, corn casseroles and all the fixings are what we look forward to around the holidays. The same is true for your loved ones. As long as they are able to chew and swallow safely, they can still enjoy all the foods they love.
Even with terminal illness, patients may want to enjoy small bites of the same meal that they have looked forward to in previous years. Appetites may be lessened and they may only eat a few spoonfuls, but if they desire to partake, let them enjoy the holiday treats. This includes sweet treats. Food is often associated with great comfort, and comfort is what hospice does best.
Be sure to watch for signs that your loved one is not tolerating food or drink such as choking. For those who are having difficulty with nausea, be sure to have some bland foods on hand such as rolls, mashed potatoes, and even simply stewed apples with a bit of cinnamon. There are plenty of sites with holiday recipes for those with chronic illness. Work with your hospice nurse to see if any modifications need to be made to prevent any choking risk.
Is It Appropriate To Exchange Gifts With A Loved One With Terminal Illness?
Gift exchanges during the holidays is a tradition dating back over 2,000 years. Many families take great joy in giving and receiving gifts. One question that comes up during the gift giving season is whether it would be well received by a person who has a terminal illness to be presented with a gift at gatherings. While this may vary from person to person and each situation could be different, in general, gifts are often well received. They convey the message that you are living in the present with your loved one and not solely focused on the end.
Often, themes for presents stem from the desire to bring comfort, joy, and evoke good emotions. In keeping with this tradition, some good ideas for a gift for someone who is chronically ill is one that brings that warm, cozy, and loving feeling. A warm blanket, a soft shawl, a lightly scented candle, or a book they have been wanting to read. Gifts can even be personal such as framed pictures of the family for your loved one to place at their bedside. There are many options for gifts for those who are living with terminal illness. Gifts do not have to be exchanged if it does not feel right. Just know that your time and presence with your loved one is a gift in itself.
Gifts do not have to be exchanged if it does not feel right. Just know that your time and presence with your loved one is a gift in itself.
Hospice Can Help
Holidays can be stressful. Having a loved one with a terminal diagnosis can be tough as well. If you are looking for support for end of life issues and aren’t sure where to turn, maybe it is time to call hospice.
If you are in the Las Vegas area and are looking for hospice services, contact us.
Let us show you how compassion makes the difference in the lives of those we serve.
Author: Julie Chapman LVN is a nurse writer with a passion for nurturing people. With 14 years of experience, she has worked with various specialties; however, hospice is the niche she feels the most called to.