“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays,” Perry Como belted out in one of my favorite holiday songs. With millions of people expected to travel during the holidays, Perry knew what he was talking about.
But for those dealing with a serious disease or facing a terminal illness, being home during the holidays, and not in a hospital bed, can feel impossible.
Home Health Care for the Holidays
“Home care has come a long way,” shared Rebecca Doyle, the senior director of Post-Acute Alignment with Banner Health. “Patients who previously would have needed to be cared for in the hospital can now be cared for in their own home, even with serious and complex conditions.”
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in 2015, 58.9 percent of hospice patients received care in their home. Patients are now able to get services in the home that weren’t possible before, like infusion therapies and wound care.
“Having patients go home is very healthy for them,” said David Edwards, MD, chief medical officer with Banner Home Care and Hospice. “There’s less exposure to bacteria, you get more rest, and you generally feel better in familiar surroundings.”
When your loved one is able to be home, it’s likely that his or her illness will change things, especially around the holidays.
“Often times traditions are the hardest thing for us to let go of—they’ve been so ingrained in how we celebrate the holidays,” shared Heather Mulder, outreach program manager with Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. “If someone is not able to participate in the tradition like they have in the past, it can be a reminder of how much things have changed.”
Mulder recommended learning to balance control with acceptance. “There are many ways we can modify traditions so that we still get the spirit of the tradition, even if it’s not executed in the exact same way as in the past.”
Some examples Mulder provided for adjusting traditions include:
- Holiday parties – Plan to attend for a small period of time or ask small groups of friends and family to visit you at home.
- Holiday services – Ask your place of worship if it’s possible to televise or stream the event so you can watch from home.
- Meals – Ask the caregiver in advance about any dietary restrictions.
Another big part of the season is gift giving. Now that someone is battling an illness or has become a caregiver, his or her wish list has likely changed. “It becomes challenging for people to know what would be a good gift,” said Mulder.
If you’re in need of ideas, consider asking the caregiver or use these suggestions from Mulder:
- Accompany the caregiver to a support group
- CDs, DVDs or a streaming service subscription
- Cleaning or prepared meal services
- Magazine subscription
- Manicure or pedicure for caregiver
- Sit with the caregiver’s loved one, giving the caregiver some free time
- Schedule phone calls or visits
If you’re fortunate enough to be healthy, home and surrounded by the ones you love this holiday season, consider giving some of your time, talents or resources to those not as lucky. Contact your local homeless shelter, hospital or retirement home and ask how you can help spread some holiday cheer.