Town of Uxbridge, MA
Depression and Grief during the Christmas Season

11152012_113107_0.png`Tis the Season to be Jolly
    Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging

Coping with Grief at the Holidays

For many of us the holidays are a time of celebration, joy, and fun. However those who have experienced loss can have feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, and emptiness. Loss can be the death of a loved one but it can come in other forms such as loss of physical ability, absence of a loved one, or loss of traditions that once defined a holiday celebration. Grief can be explained as the emotional result of the pain one experiences because of loss. 

The holidays can be some of the toughest times after loss. When someone is grieving the holidays can be quite an overwhelming and difficult time. While you may wish that you could ignore the holidays and avoid them all together it is virtually impossible. Where ever you go there are holiday decorations. The television and radio are filled with holiday shows and music. One must voyage through the holidays as part of the grief journey. 

It is important to know that there is no right or wrong way to approach the holidays when you are grieving. The ways we handle the holidays are as individual as we are, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for everyone. It isn't unusual for well intentioned people to imply pressure on how the holidays "should" be handled; advice may be well intentioned only the individual can know what feels right. 

While there is nothing that will take away grief, there are things that can be done to help alleviate the weight of grief throughout the holiday season. 

Share Your Feelings 
Make sure to allow time to express feelings. Overbooking yourself to avoid feelings doesn't work and can lead to unpredictable emotional outbursts. Sharing your feelings can help set a safe atmosphere for others to share too; others may be feeling similarly but aren't sure how to bring it up. 
Tell People What You Need
If you don't share what you need family and friends will make assumptions. Assumptions can lead to poor communication and hurt feelings. While it would be nice, we can't expect others to know what we need since we all grieve in our own unique way.

Make Action Plans
It isn't easy to know what we will need at the holidays but being caught off guard can make things harder. Try to anticipate your reactions to specific situations you may encounter throughout the holidays. Develop planned responses and actions, and allow yourself to change your plans.

 Caring for Teens and Grandma Simultaneously

Caring for Teens and Grandma Simultaneously

The Caregiver Space

An estimated one out of every eight Americans aged 40-60 are caring for an aging family member while still raising children. Chances are the children of this "sandwich generation" are teenagers or close to that age range.
Three Generations Under One Roof
When neighbors and friends hear that I'm taking care of my aunt, their response is always supportive and encouraging. Most say what a blessing it is for the kids to have the example and unique opportunity to help someone they love that's out of the ordinary. They say things like "they'll remember this when they get older" or "they'll always appreciate this experience".
While all of these comments are well-meaning and hold some truth, they only acknowledge one side of the picture.
Everyone recognizes my sacrifice since I'm providing most of the hands-on care but most people don't consider the major sacrifice my husband and children have made.
Below are some of the realities of our new life and how it affects the kids. My intention isn't to complain, but to help others anticipate some issues to help better prepare for caring for an elderly family member while still caring for children at home.
Two generations that are high-maintenance
I know my children will benefit from this experience but I don't take that for granted. Teenagers can be more needy than younger children.  It's a notoriously emotionally-charged time with increasing demands at school and in their world.
I minimally prepared my own children for the change due to my aunt's unexpected fall. I tried to keep them informed of the progress and timeline of my aunt's arrival but they really had no input into the decision and in many ways, it turned their lives upside-down. Some of those changes have been drastic, others have been subtle.
We all knew the kids would have to shuffle room assignments but it was impossible to anticipate some of the other changes and demands on their time and privacy. Both of which are in high demand during the teen years.
Unexpected Responsibilities
I rely on all of the kids to keep my aunt company if I have to run an errand, make dinner or do work around the house. When this one or that one has a long day at school and just wants to retreat to their room, sometimes they really don't have that luxury. 
We set up my aunt's room to include a sitting area with a TV and I really expected her to be in there all the time.  In her former life, she sat at the same table all day and watched her shows. Since coming to live with us, however, she prefers to be where the action is with the family. I think it's great and a major factor in her improved overall health but it also puts a constant demand on our attention. It's an unexpected reality of our new life together.
Although this is her home, my aunt's mobility and cognition is limited so her choices of things to do to occupy herself is also limited. She's only entertained by 3 shows (which we record for her) and EWTN. The kids are so sweet that they also limit their show selections to her favorites when she's in the main living area. My aunt doesn't demand it and tries hard not to interfere with their leisure time but they want to make her feel comfortable.
When the kids disappear into their rooms for long stretches of time, I let them. Luckily, there are enough of us to pick up where someone else left off and my aunt has nearly constant company after school and on the weekends. Giving them some space in this demanding situation is the least I can do. 
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The Challenge of Treating 'Frailty' 

The Atlantic

Two elderly patients are admitted to the hospital. Both have the same condition, maybe pneumonia, maybe a hip fracture. Both are the same age. And both will get more or less the same medical care. The difference is hard to pinpoint, but from the moment they enter the hospital, a doctor can often tell that one will do well and the other poorly.
For a long time, medicine lacked a term to describe the patient who would do poorly, but now we have one: frailty. Frail patients are not sick-they have no particular diagnosable disease. But if they do fall ill or suffer an injury, they are much more likely than non-frail patients to fare badly. In one study that followed a group of elderly patients over seven years, the frail were more than three times likelier to die than their non-frail counterparts.
The precise definition of frailty is still evolving, but most frail people share a number of common traits. Five widely accepted features are weight loss of more than 10 pounds in the last year, frequent exhaustion, low levels of activity, slow gait, and poor grip strength. The syndrome was first defined by Dr. Linda Fried, and colleagues at Johns Hopkins in 2001.
Surgical patients who exhibit just two or three of these characteristics have a much higher risk of poor outcomes. They are twice as likely to suffer complications from surgery, spend an average of 50 percent more time in the hospital, and are three times more likely to be discharged to a skilled-nursing facility instead of to their homes.
The fundamental problem with frailty is a reduced ability to bounce back from biological insults, such as infections and injuries. A relatively minor illness from which a non-frail elderly person would readily recover can throw a frail patient into a downward spiral of additional illnesses, sometimes leading to death.
Consider Mrs. Smith, an independent 85-year-old patient who was still mentally sharp but frail. She developed a urinary-tract infection. A condition that in other patients would have required little more than ant ibiotics landed her in the hospital, too unstable to walk, intermittently delirious, and dependent on others for care.

Holidays seem like a good time to fogive...and forget.  Should Mark Wahlberg be pardoned for his bad boy past?


The opinions contained in these articles do not represent the opinions or views of Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging, its Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, or its funders.  They are offered as an informational courtesy to our readers only.  A link to the source article is provided.