[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Written by Melissa Bensouda – AAKP Ambassador, Missouri
Oh how I look forward to the holidays. The smell of pine, caramel lattes and time with the family excite me! The holidays can also be filled with the unexpected and I would love to share with you my tips for survival and fun:
First, let’s talk about food. Since I was a little girl, eating has been one of my favorite past times. The smell of turkey, dressing and sweet potato pies during the holidays have always filled my heart and my mouth with joy. Things changed a bit when I started dialysis however. Even though I don’t have the same food restrictions on nocturnal home dialysis as I did in center, it’s easy to overeat things that are not part of a heart-healthy diet (foods rich in fat).
Tip 1 – Avoid Holiday Gatherings on an Empty Stomach
- Since the holidays typically involve me attending a range of work and family functions that involve food, I try not to attend these functions on a completely empty stomach. If I am attending an evening meal, I make sure I eat a heart-healthy breakfast and lunch and enjoy a small portion of what is provided at dinner. If your family is anything like mine, they may be offended at your small helping. I’ve found that they understand after I remind them of my situation and desire to remain energetic and feeling well the rest of the holiday season. Plus this gives me the perfect excuse to pack a small to-go bag for another time.
Tip 2 – Be Extra Careful with Holiday Desserts
- Again, if your family is like mine, holiday desserts are like no other desserts. They typically contain loads of butter, cream cheese, sugar and all the other ingredients that make them absolutely delicious. Since most of these items are not heart-healthy and because I have lost all forms of discipline in the past, I choose only one location to eat desserts if I am making multiple stops in a day. This involves planning and picking favorites, but it has to be done to watch my calorie intake, sodium and cholesterol.
Next there is proper planning for dialysis. Since we have the privilege of doing our own dialysis at home, we don’t worry as much about being transported back and forth to the local clinic. This doesn’t mean we are worry-free and there are a couple of ways to avoid having to dialyze in center unexpectedly:
Tip 1 – Review Your Supply Inventory Very Closely and Timely
- Be sure to review your dialysis supply order to ensure you have extra supplies at home. I live in the Midwest where a snowstorm could last four or five days and if you run out of supplies right before it starts, this could lead to having to do an in-center treatment. Your inventory of extra supplies may differ by clinic, but mine recommends I have at least two additional weeks of supplies at home for this reason.
Tip 2 – Be Extra Careful with Sterile Techniques
- Even though we are always mindful of proper cleaning and aseptic techniques, we all know the holidays are full of handshakes, hugs that could be accompanied by flus and colds. Show your bottle of sanitizer some extra love between hand washes. Be sure to disinfect your dialysis machine and areas frequently too.
Last but not least, stress management. I will be the first to raise my hand when asked if I feel better since doing home dialysis. I will also be the first to admit that sometimes I lose sight of my weakened immune system and achy bones during the fall and winter seasons. I’ll share my tips for mental and physical stress during this precious time of the year:
Tip 1 – Don’t Forget About You
- Throughout all of the hustle and bustle during the holidays (shopping, cooking, visiting with loved ones), it is very important to take time out for yourself. It is certainly the season for giving, but it is equally important to maintain a healthy balance. Even though our minds may say go and do, our bodies sometimes fall behind. My form of balance is taking naps at every opportunity and ensuring I get a full night’s sleep. It’s sort of like when I was a kid. If I took my naps, I could then go out to play. I use the same rationale as an adult so I can endure the full holiday season with my wonderful children and the rest of my loved ones
Tip 2 – Don’t Overcommit
- Being at every event and experiencing every moment sounds ideal, however our bodies give us warning signs when it’s time to slow down. I learned long ago to not feel guilty for declining some invitations to events. Those who care most about me completely understood my need to limit physical exertion at times. When I was extremely sick years ago, I would send holiday cards to families I could not visit, but wanted to make sure they knew they were on my mind. It lifted the stress I had previously placed on myself about not seeing them in person.
Tip 3 – By all means be thankful and enjoy the love
- Patients with chronic health care conditions have a huge appreciation for living. Each year I’m alive to love and be loved by friends and family brings me great joy.
Happy Holidays Everyone![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]