Holiday Tips for Parkies

I love the Christmas season… Always have – especially when I was little. It was magical in a way… of course, then I grew up to be what I am today – an old “fart” – and Christmas seemed to loose that magic, and instead became a stressful sort of yearly  ‘chore‘ (and no, my name isn’t Ebenezer!)  Well, let’s face it – I’m sure that all of us get pretty stressed out this time of year!  Shopping, planning meals, cooking meals and treats, choir rehearsals, family get-togethers, riding in Santa’s sleigh (WHAAAT??) and the like. Really it shouldn’t be that way, though – not only have we lost the magic of Christmas, but also lost track of the fact that getting gifts isn’t the reason for the season! But no matter, it can be pretty stressful – and having Parkinson’s just makes it worse, since stress will most likely cause our symptoms to flare up more than usual.
 
So, once again this year, I publishing my ‘Holiday Tips for Parkies‘… although a lot of them can apply to anyone! But I’m hoping that this will remind us Parkies of some thoughts that may help keep things in perspective, and thereby let us enjoy our holiday period a little more. 
 
So, let’s get to it!! Without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for the 2021 Holiday Season:
 
 
Tom’s Top 10 Tips for Parkies During the Holiday Season
 
1. Don’t try to do too much at one time
I’m a FAST person – I like to get things done and over with so that they’re no longer “on my plate“, as they say.  And I know that’s probably true for most of you too: During this busy time, we all try to cram as much as possible into the time available; which usually means our stress levels goes through the roof! But for a Parky, this can add even more consequences to our lives; and all that extra stress usually does one ugly thing – it make our symptoms even WORSE than they were! Such as being ‘off‘ for longer periods; having unpredictable ‘on‘ and ‘off‘ times; or making our symptoms, like tremors or dystonia, even worse than before! Plus, a lot of us – myself included – move much more slowly than we did before due to disease progression; and then trying to go overboard and do everything at once may not only be impossible for us, but in some instances may even be downright harmful to the body!! (Like trying to rush down that escalator at the mall to get to that ONE store that carries that ONE special gift you want; and then falling flat on your face!) So remember – even when things are crazy and not going your way,  do only what you can do during a certain time, and don’t try to do everything at once. As they say, “Relax… And take a deep breath…” Just remember, it will all get done – eventually!
 
2. Take time out for yourself
These days., it doesn’t take much to “tucker me out“, since fatigue becomes more common and troublesome as we (and our disease) press forward year after year. During the holidays, we’re on the go more often, which usually means we – myself especially – get plain pooped out! So what’s a tip for that? Make sure you take some time out of each day for yourself…. just sit back, put your feet up, and relax a bit. It will decrease your stress level, and hopefully reduce your PD symptoms a bit. This could involve some kind of meditation (Ummm… Ummm) or Tai Chi; reading a book; talking to friends;  taking a nap; just sitting back and watching a good Christmas movie; or having a long chat with Santa (before you laugh, how do you know that he wouldn’t just like to get off his feet a bit and talk about the weather??) But you might say, “Tom, I can’t – I’ve got people yelling at me to get this or that done!” Well, tell ’em to come in where you are and relax a bit as well – sounds like they need it too! Whatever it is you choose to do to pass the time, by yourself or with others, make sure you do it and take a little time to RELAX – your body and brain will thank you!!
 
3.  Don’t leave your daily “ROUTINES” by the side of the snowy road!
On the other hand, with everything going on, we can sometimes forget our daily routines – things that WE, as PD patients, need to do – like exercise, brushing your teeth, taking your meds on time (more on that later); and all those things that a Parky needs to do to keep up the fight with that dastardly Parkinson’s monster. Remember, exercise is one of the things that can slow down PD; so if possible, always take time out of your schedule to do your exercise regimen – whatever that may be. Even puttering around the house, or walking around the mall while shopping (and bearing the weight of those heavy gift bags!) is better than sitting around eating Christmas candy and watching Christmas specials from sun up to sun down!! (Now, don’t get me wrong –  I like Christmas specials!  In moderation, anyway… But I can never figure out that one with the kid and BB gun…)
 
And make sure you set aside time each day to get all those other things done – things that you need to do to benefit your mind and your body. You’ll feel better, and thereby enjoy the holiday season even more!
 
So how can you remind yourself of your daily Parky routines? Make up a holiday “reminder plan“; put that newfangled smart phone of yours to good use by setting up schedules and alarms if need be. And always involve your care partner – he or she may have other good ideas on how to keep you moving along smoothly.
 
4. Get your Zzzzz’s!
Even if you still have the energy to party into the wee hours of the morning (trust me, I’m not in that group anymore!), don’t forget to stay on your SLEEP schedule if possible.. As someone who never seems to get enough sleep now that I have PD, I can say with certainty that keeping a good sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do to care for yourself during the holiday season. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day if possible. Keeping this schedule as close as you can to your other scheduled activities (meals, exercising, taking Rudolph for his daily walk, etc.) will give you some of your energy back during these cold, dull winter months!!
 
And if you are still having trouble with sleep, talk to your neurologist – he or she know of meds and other means to help you get a decent nights sleep! Remember – they are there to help!
 
5. Don’t forgeT about your meds!
If you’re like me, it seems like every Christmas I end up with more and more pills to take! It’s like acorns growing on trees – more and more of ’em – and yearly they all fall off – right on my head! UGH!! <sigh> Anyway, during this time we all have A LOT on our minds – which makes it easy to forget your pill schedule if you are not careful. This can be especially true if your symptoms are mild or you have something like DBS that helps control those symptoms better. Trust me, if you miss your meds, your body will most likely let you know about it – and by then it’s usually too late! But going ‘off can easily ruin an evening holiday get-together, party or even a shopping trip; or if you’re having a really good time you may simply forget about them in the midst of holiday cheer. What to do? Make sure you have a system or routine for your meds that you’re comfortable with and can easily remember;  Make use of that smart-phone – you can set alarms for each time during the day when your meds are due (I do this myself). That way, if you’re having a good time celebrating or opening tons of gifts (lucky you!), you’ll still be reminded that it’s time for your meds. Or get yourself of the available SmartPhone apps that let you track your meds – these usually have medication reminders built-in! (Send me a message if you would like to know the names of the ones I use/used).
 

6. Plan your meals (as much as you are able to)

Let’s face it – during this time of year, we eat a lot – Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, nights out with friends or relatives, Christmas cookies with Santa, and the Christmas meal itself – Too much of that can cause your waistband to expand in a direction you don’t want! (These days I have the exact opposite problem – I need to eat more to keep my weight up, much to the annoyance of my wife and friends!) . It’s easy to go a little overboard and eat too much and come away with stomach issues; or more important for us Parkies, eat something that interferes with our meds (like a gigantic turkey dinner!) So think about what you are eating, when you are eating it, your next med intake, and the time in-between. Doing this can not only help keep you ‘on‘ but also may help you from putting on that excess holiday weight!!
 
7. Rely On Your Care Partner
​​Don’t forget that your care partner is there for you! If you have trouble remembering things, or walking (due to stiffness), or getting dressed for that big holiday night event; or anything else that may be more difficult for you to do, remember your care partner. And don’t feel bad about relying on them a little bit more during this season. I’m know they are stressed out also at this time of year; but I’m sure they would say, no matter what, YOU are their most important gift! They want what’s best for you, and if you’re miserable they will most likely feel miserable too… It’s their job to help you when they can – so don’t forget about them, and thank and love them when they do help you out!
 
8. Keep abreast of the weather!
Obviously, the holiday season is right near the start of winter, which usually means (unless you live someplace like California or Florida – lucky you!) the weather can change in a flash. I know this is especially true here in Michigan – we have a saying here that goes kinda like this… If you don’t like the weather now in Michigan, just wait a little while, cause it’ll change!
 
Therefore it’s always wise to keep an eye out for changing weather. It’s real easy to ruin your entire holiday time by having a fall on an icy sidewalk and ending up in the hospital (where you don’t want to be during the holidays, especially during this COVID-19 re-outbreak)! Watch out for snow, ice, sleet, weather watches/warnings, and those snowballs thrown at you by friends (ha, just threw that one in there to see if you were still paying attention! Hmm, although…). As I mentioned above, rely on your care partner, if necessary, to help you navigate messy winter weather!
 
Finally, remember the cold and dress warmly in multiple layers if necessary – that way when you come in from the snow to somewhere like Grandma’s house (where the oven has been running all day), you can remove layers if necessary. Believe it or not, being too cold or hot can be a symptom of PD – and that could turn a joyful evening into a miserable one!
 
9. If Traveling during the Holidays…
I could probably write a book on this topic alone! ​It’s usually a given that a lot of us travel during the holiday season. Whether you’re “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go!“, or just traveling across town, things can get stressful trying to navigate messy roads or airport/bus/train terminals.. And what will that extra stress do to our symptoms? You got it, make them worse… So take steps ahead of time to help prepare yourself for traveling to reduce that stress on your body and brain! How to do that? Here are some ideas:
 
  • Make sure you arrive early if traveling by airplane/train/bus/etc.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time in case of backups, late arrivals, etc.
  • Make sure you have ALL your meds that you will need WITH YOU ON YOUR PERSON! NEVER pack all your meds in your checked baggage!!
  • Be prepared for the worst – in case you get stuck out in the snowstorm or a flight gets canceled. You might put together some sort of ‘Emergency Kit‘ tailored just for you in case of an emergency or similar event.

10. Enjoy the Christmas Holiday – Be loved and give love!
This, by far, is my most important tip: Remember what the Christmas season is all about. It’s not giving and receiving gifts; or running ourselves ragged; or trying to get and give a better gift than someone else (it’s not a competition, folks); rather, it the celebration of the birth of the Messiah… a time to spend with family and friends… to remember what the good Lord has done for you this last year… and to give and receive love. Smile more than you frown; say to your gorgeous spouse/care partner how much you love them and how thankful you are to them; if your parents are still here with us, visit them and tell them you love them and how appreciative you are of the things they did for you all your life; even smile and talk to those folks who you wouldn’t normally associate with. THAT, folks, should be what the Christmas season is all about, And I’m preaching this here to myself as well – sometimes even I take a lot for granted; so these tips – especially this one – make me stop and think.. and thank!. Hopefully, it will with you as well.

So, in a nutshell, LOVE, LIVE, and CELEBRATE with all those you meet this Christmas season!

Gifts for Parkies
This isn’t really a ‘TIP’, per se, but is really directed to those of you without PD, but may have a friend or relative who does have Parkinson’s.
 
First, believe it or not, we Parkies are like every other normal human being, and we like all kinds of things (well, maybe NOT that ugly Holiday sweater!!) so if you’re brave enough to wander around the mall in your local area, you can usually gift us what you would for anyone else with the same interests… Just keep in mind our ‘special‘ circumstances (like being slower or not as coordinated as we used to be – so most likely that gift certificate for a Watch Repair class would NOT be appropriate!) and I’m sure whatever you gift them with, your friend will love it!
 
But, if you want something ‘unique‘, here are a few  gift ideas for that special Parky in your life:
  • If you can afford it, Smart Devices are a great and useful gift for Parkies: An Apple watch, or Alexa device, or a fitness tracker will definitely help with your Parkinson’s friend!
  •  If they have trouble sleeping, a sleep aid, such as a sound therapy device, aromatherapy product or back massager will help them to relax and maybe sleep better.
  • Slip on shoes – it sounds silly, but i can tell you from experience that trying to tie your shoes in the midst of a ‘off‘ time (and with arthritis)… well, slip on shoes can help!
  • Gift Certificates – maybe for a night out at a restaurant, or a session of Rock Steady Boxing for PD would be a useful gift.
  • Books are always welcome and provide a respite from our PD woes.
  • Weighted Utensils, like those from LiftWare, can make it easier for those with Parkinson’s (tremors especially) or other eating problems, to keep their food on their utensils and make its path to the mouth much smoother. 
But Tom,” you ask, “I hate shopping! And besides, my Parky friend has just about everything (or doesn’t have room to store it). So, is there another way to give something to my Parky friend this Christmas?
 
Well, if you hate to shop or just don’t know what to get, there are gifts YOU can give to help ALL us Parkies – and that would be to contribute to Parkinson’s related organizations during this time of the year;  especially if you use itemizing on your taxes and want to get that last charity item in for the year. More important is that giving to these organizations not only will help those in need that are struggling with PD, but also help with research. And who knows? It could be your gift to research that finally turns the tide in this battle with Parkinson’s – be it discovering better drugs, or even finding a cure! So don’t forget to give this season if you can.
 
So, if you are still befuddled as to what to give, below are some excellent Parkinson’s related organizations that I highly recommend:
I believe that with a number of these programs, you can give a gift in memory or in honor of someone; and that way you’ll honor your favorite Parky out there – he or she will be thankful for remembering them, I’m sure!!
 
I hope I’ve given everyone (once again) something to think about during this time of year, and maybe even some good advice that can help you get through the holiday season without TOO much stress. And, as always, I want to thank each one of YOU, my readers, for continuing with me and supporting me with my blog! It’s been a wild – but interesting – ride so far, and I’m hopeful that something I’ve said or wrote about may have helped or touched someone out there, no matter if they have PD or not!
 
And I promise, I’ll do better in the coming year with keeping up with my blog; and I’ll be back again here soon with some more interesting topics to discuss!
 
I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year!

tom

"I believe that no matter what may happen to you, life should be lived, and lived to its fullest. Don’t just exist – have fun! Live your own life passionately; laugh long and loud and often; enjoy family and friends; and most of all, love – not just others but yourself as well. Remember, even with a chronic disease, there is NO ONE else like you!" Deep Brain Thoughts is one of my ways to help others live life with Parkinson's (PD); to give me an outlet for the things I believe in; and to show my loyal readers what inspires me in a world that sometimes seems out of control. So… sit back, relax, take your shoes off, and let's journey on.

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