Simple Tips on Surviving the Holidays

Published in the Woonsocket Callon December 23, 2018

The holiday season can be a double-edge sword. For some, it brings feelings of warmth and joy, even closeness and belonging to family and friends, but for others it produces, extra stress and anxiety and feelings of isolation and depression. Increased demands and family obligations during Christmas through New Year’s Eve, from last minute shopping for gifts, baking and cooking, cleaning and hosting parties, getting the Christmas cards mailed, and even having unrealistic expectations can bring about the holiday blues. Although holiday stress triggers depression, it can also bring about headaches, excessive drinking and overeating and even difficulty in sleeping.

During her 24-year career as a licensed behavioral health therapist, Holly Fitting, LMHC, LCDP, Vice President of Addiction and Residential Services at the Providence-based The Providence Center (TPC), has assisted many of her clients develop strategies to cope with the holiday blues. “It’s quite common,” says Fitting, who oversees over 20 programs at TPC.

Traveling to visit families, flight delays, long lines to check in, bad weather can add to your stress, too, says Fitting, even anticipating topics conversations that may lead to arguments and events that may not even happen.

Pre-planning Potential Family Conflict

Fitting says that preplanning potential issues that you might encounter at a family gathering can helpful up to a point if you just don’t over plan. “If you try to figure out every possible scenario that might occur, this may only heighten your anxiety,” she adds. So, if you think your sibling will bring up political topics you may not want to discuss, you can plan to say, “Let’s talk about this topic after the holidays,” suggest Fitting. Or just don’t sit near them at the dinner table to avoid the conversation, she adds.

It’s okay to say “no” if you choose not to attend holiday parties or family gatherings, says Fitting, especially if you feel stressed out going. To keep feelings from being hurt and reducing potential problems it might be better to go but limit the time there, she says.

Also, you can choose not to take on the responsibilities and commitments to bring trays of treats, says Fitting. But if you choose to bring dessert, take the easy road. Instead of baking everything from scratch, buy a platter of cookies or a store-bought cake to lighten your load.

Combating the Holiday Blues

Maintaining healthy habits can also help you beat the holiday blues. “Try to eat healthy meals before holiday gatherings and minimize sugary desserts and alcohol consumed at the celebrations,” states Fitting. During the holidays, “continue your exercise routine, even if it is a scaled down version and get plenty of sleep,” she suggests, noting that this will help to reduce anxiety and depression, sleep better and keep the weight off.

Out of control holiday spending and last-minute shopping can increase holiday stress, too, says Fitting who suggests these tips to reduce gift costs: “Stick to your set budget to avoid guilt about buying gifts you cannot afford. Use coupons and sales to decrease spending costs. Agree to set the spending limits to no more than $ 20. Rather than buying presents for ten different people, play Secret Santa and each family member just buys one gift. Set the price and rules ahead of time and make sure everyone understands them. Or rather than buying presents collect cash to make a donation to an agreed upon charity,” she recommends.

Standing in long lines in the shopping mall can quickly become a source of stress, says Fitting. “One good solution is to double up and invite a family member or friend to shop. Waiting in a long line alone always feels like it takes twice as long as when you have someone to talk to.

You can get into the holiday spirit by starting a new tradition for yourself and family that you will enjoy, suggests Fitting. “Volunteering to help out with a Toys for Tots Drive, or at a soup kitchen. Giving back by volunteering can really help to boost your spirits,” she says.

Finally, Fitting says, “accept the fact that there will be mishaps along the way during the holidays. Try laughing at the unanticipated events and this certainly will help to reduce the undue stress experienced.”

Getting Professional Help When Needed

As Christmas and New Year’s approach, and you cannot shake the holiday blues, “it is important to be honest with yourself and your feelings. But, if the feelings of sadness still persist then you should go speak to a professional. Sometimes going for therapy to talk through your feelings will help to alleviate depression and anxiety. Sometimes prescribed medication along with therapy is necessary to help reduce symptoms.”

For those suffering the holiday blues, call The Providence Center at (401) 276 4020 or go to http://www.providence center.org.

Sizing Up Baby Boomer Travel Trends

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 16, 2018

Over a week ago, AARP Travel released the long-awaited results of its annual travel trend survey, examining travel behaviors across generations, looking at expectations and planning among Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72), Gen Xers (38 to 53), and Millennials (ages 21 to 37).

According to the new national AARP survey, Boomers, considered to be enthusiastic travelers, expressed an eagerness to travel in 2019, planning to take a total of four to five leisure trips, on which they will spend over $6,600 (compared to Gen Xers spending $5,400 and Millennials outlaying $ 4,440.)

Meanwhile, a small number of the AARP survey’s respondents say they will only travel internationally (6 percent) while the rest are equally split between traveling throughout the nation (48 percent) or traveling both domestically and internationally (48 percent).

For Boomers, Planning a Trip is Not a Last Minute Chore

According to the 47-page 2019 Boomer Travel Trends report, released on Dec. 3, 2018, this year’s travel planning is taking place earlier as compared to previous years. A significant majority of Boomers (88 percent) planning domestic trips in 2019 have already selected their destination, an increase from 72 percent of 2018 domestic travelers. For Boomers traveling abroad, 31 percent had booked their 2019 trips by September 2018, up from 23 percent by September of the previous year in 2018 and 17 percent in 2017.

The AARP survey notes that when Boomers travel overseas, Europe continues to be the most popular choice followed by Italy and France. The findings also indicate that trips to the Caribbean and South and Central America remain popular, but interest in Mexico is waning.

For Boomers, domestic travel preferences have not changed in several years; Southern and Western states continue to be popular to most older travelers. Boomers are most likely to plan summer vacations (13 percent), weekend getaways (12 percent), and multi-generational trips (11 percent).

Travel destination preferences remain unchanged from last year, with Florida (17 percent) being the top-mentioned location followed by California (11%), New York (5%), Texas (5%), and Las Vegas (5%).

“According to this research, Boomers travel plans in 2019 are focused on spending time with family and friends, while getting away from everyday life,” said Patty David, Director Consumer Insights, and Personal Fulfillment in a statement. “Whether it’s a weekend road trip or an international vacation, Boomers are eager to travel in 2019 and are planning earlier and spending more than in year’s past.” she says.

The AARP Travel survey results also indicate that when traveling Boomers seek connection with locals for an authentic experience, especially over meals or when taking tours on international trips. Work was not found to be the biggest barrier to travel for older travelers, but cost (40 percent) and health issues/concerns (32 percent) were mentioned most often by the survey respondents.

Boomer respondents also tend to travel to get away from the day to day routines (47 percent) to relax (48 percent), and to spend time with family and friends (57 percent). Twenty four percent of the boomers say they have placed taking an international vacation on their life’s bucket list.

Researchers also took a look at intergeneration travel trends, too. Thirty-two percent of grandparents have taken their grandkids on a skip-generation trip, leaving mom and pop at home, and 15 percent of these older travelers are already planning to do so in 2019. Seventy-seven percent of these Boomers will do most of the trip planning themselves and 76 percent will pay for most of the trip.

Working Boomers do not feel compelled to stay connected to the office while traveling but for those who choose to will limit contact time, says the AARP survey’s finding. A few have even taken the opportunity to extend work trips for pleasure and fun or intend to do so in future trips.

Finally, most of the AARP survey respondents say they travel with a smartphone on domestic trips, but about only half choose to bring them on international trips. The top use for these phones while on vacation is to take photos.

Boomer Travel Trends in the Nation’s Smallest State

Lara Salamano, Chief Marketing Officer of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, sees tourism as an important industry in the state. “It is the fifth-largest industry in R.I. by employment, and in 2017, the total traveler economy reached $6.5 billion,” she says.

“Multigenerational vacations featuring extended stays in vacation rentals or weekend family getaways are very popular here in the Ocean State,” says Salamano, noting that tourists are taking full advantage of the state’s authentic experiences, specifically great food, historic, natural beauty including its beaches, walking and bike trails and cultural attractions. “We also have a great array of soft adventure activities for the whole family. This is a case where our size works to our advantage as families can easily experience a wide range of different activities in a short period of time,” she adds.

Salamano notes that water, sailing, horse-riding on the beach, golf also attracts Boomers, too. Rhode Island is playing host to the U.S.G.A. Senior Open in 2020, she adds.

In addition, Boomers are big shoulder season travelers as they are not tied down by school vacation period. They are free to enjoy midweek and off-peak times of year to avoid higher prices, she says…

While summer remains the state’s most popular tourism season, the state’s Marketing Office has identified shoulder seasons as growth opportunities, says Salamano, noting that “Our most popular trip is domestic travelers living within a three-hour drive.

Salamano sees the Ocean States as quite different from those popular travel destinations chosen by the respondents of this year’s AARP’s Travel Survey. “Those destinations are also much larger, whereas Rhode Island’s small size ensures visitors are spending less time driving in traffic or waiting in lines, and more time actually on vacation. This was the jumping off point for our “Fun Sized” ad campaign which we rolled out last year,” she said. To see Fun Sized videos, go to http://www.visitrhodeisland.com/press/fun-sized-campaign/.

Getting the Bang for Your Marketing Dollars

According to Salamano, Rhode Island’s public relations strategy targeting Millennials involves pitching journalists on Rhode Island’s newest offerings such as new craft breweries and wineries, restaurants, special events, and hotel accommodations. This has led to placements national publications (including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Forbes) as well as more targeted publications such as the Boston Globe, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and TimeOutNewYork.

Digital ads are targeted to both Boomers and Millennials. “We have a robust advertising strategy, including digital ad placements to target audiences on websites that include travel planning sites and news publications. Digital advertising allows us to both target audiences and track our performance very effectively. Our ‘Fun Sized’ videos feature a wide variety of activities that appeal to both Baby Boomers and Millennials. This includes rock climbing, horseback riding and bird watching, to music, performances, restaurants and WaterFire,” says Salamano.

To read the full AARP Travel survey results, go to http://www.aarp.org/2019traveltrends. For more information, contact Vicki Gelfeld at vgelfeld@aarp.org.

Caregivers Taking Care of Persons with Dementia Have Unique Needs

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 9, 2018

Being a caregiver 24/7 to a person in relatively good health is a tough job. But, caring for someone with dementia, becomes a 36 hour, say Authors Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins, in their ground-breaking book (published in 1981) on providing care for those with the devastating mental disorder.

The Washington, DC-based AARP releases survey findings last month that takes a look at this “unique subset of caregivers” who are taking care of persons with dementia and other cognitive disorders. Caregiving takes a physical, and emotional toll on these individuals, forcing them to put in longer hours providing care and making adjustments at work and in their personal relationships, says the findings of the newly released study.

The AARP online national survey (of caregivers 18 and older) takes a look at the demands on 700 caregivers taking care of persons with dementia or other forms of cognitive impairments (most often their parents), as well as 400 caregivers who were providing care for a loved one without dementia. Regardless of the situation, on average, caregivers report having been caring for their loved one for almost 3 years.

“Family caregivers take on big responsibilities that can be physically, emotionally and financially challenging. AARP’s new research shows that this can be particularly true for those caring for loved ones with dementia,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer, in a statement released with the study report, Caring for People with Dementia: Caregivers’ Experiences. “That’s why AARP has developed resources to help family caregivers balance their own needs with the needs of their loved one,” adds LeaMond.

The AARP Study Found…

Obviously, it is time consuming to be a caregiver. The AARP Survey’s findings, released on November 30, 2018, found that 7 in 10 of those surveyed spend less time with friends and more than half spend less time with other family members because of the intensity of caregiving responsibilities While 75 percent of the survey respondents reported that caring for someone with dementia has brought about closer relationships and more meaning to their lives, the findings also indicate that caregiving experiences bring greater challenges to their lives, too.

According to the 26-page AARP report’s findings, those caring for persons with dementia (more likely a parent) spend on average 13.7 hours per week caregiving while caregivers, taking care of persons with no cognitive afflictions, spend 11.7 hours (more likely a spouse or partner or a friend or neighbor). Three in ten of the caregiver respondents (over age 35) spend over 21 hours per week caregiving, says Study’s findings.

Most of the caregiver respondents providing care to persons with dementia see the devastating disorder’s slowly progressing over time. But younger caregivers perceive that the onset of cognitive decline as suddenly happening.

About 32 percent of the caregiver respondents providing more intense caregiving to persons with dementia say managing their emotions and the demands of care (26 percent) they deliver as the biggest challenges the face.

Caregivers taking care of persons with dementia also reported negative health behaviors. They slept less (71 percent), had more anxiety (65 percent) and depression (54 percent), and spent less time on themselves and with their friends. Research studies reveal that social isolation and loneliness are linked to poorer physical and mental health outcomes.

Not only are the millions of family caregivers for those with dementia less socially connected, they are significantly more likely to put off medical care – over half (55 percent) have done so, compared to just 38 percent among the total caregiver population. However, there were positive health behaviors identified in the poll as well – 79 percent took steps to maintain or improve their brain health and 47 percent exercised more.

About 62 percent of those taking care of persons with dementia state that their intense caregiving responsibilities have led them to working different hours, leaving work early (62 percent) or take paid (53 percent) and unpaid time off (47 percent) for caregiving duties, and also worry about their finances.

But, two-thirds of all caregivers surveyed say they feel closer to their loved one, but those taking care of persons with dementia were more likely to say their relationship with their loved one over time had grown further apart (22 percent) than others. Those caregivers of persons with dementia were more likely to say the relationship with other family has been strained.

Finally, caregiver respondents say that they are receiving what they need from health care providers yet those caring for someone with dementia also have sought out more information about caregiving and from a greater variety of sources.

The AARP survey was conducted October 1-10, 2018. Data are weighted by income, gender, and age according to caregiver benchmarks obtained in Caregiving in the U.S. (2015).

Finding Caregiver Resources

AARP helps family caregivers find the information and support they need to manage their own care along with their loved one’s care. Go to http://www.aarp.org/caregiving for more resources and information on family caregiving, including AARP’s Dementia Care Guide and the Community Resource Finder.

For more info, contact AARP Researcher G. Oscar Anderson at ganderson@aarp.org.