Holiday Planning

Even with COPD, completing all of the tasks for a family gathering could be accomplished with a little extra planning and some true family teamwork.  Maybe you have heard the old saying, “You eat an elephant one bite at a time.”  This is true for event planning as well.  It is even more true when COPD is involved.

I watched my mom take on the role of hostess many times while growing up.  When I was little, she was able to do most things within a day of the gathering.  At that point, she would cook the main dish on the day of the event, but she might bake a cake or make a pie the day before.  Of course, she also cleaned the house and took care of me, so there was little time to spare.

As mom’s health worsened, she kept the holidays as a priority.  We began splitting up the tasks of preparing the food and cleaning.  We knew that this was important to her, and we were determined to make sure that we celebrated the holidays like we always did.

Here are a few tips to make it through the holiday preparation:

  1. Make a reasonable list. My mom would have a ham, a turkey and a casserole, plus three or four vegetables, bread and three or four desserts.  Our family consisted of eleven people, some of which were babies at that time.  You can see that she always went above and beyond.  Generally speaking, if you have leftovers that will not be eaten in a week and need to be frozen, you’re probably doing too much. (Ha!) When it comes to decorating, think about the things that matter most and concentrate on those.  For many people, decorating the tree is most important for Christmas, but setting up the village could be rotated to coming out next year.
  2. Delegate.  Don’t try to do it all. It only took one time for me to seriously ask her how I could help before she began to realize that she could let go of some of the work.  Sure, I had asked before, half-heartedly, but when I started really seeing what mom was going through, I approached the conversation much differently.  Instead of, “Hey mom, do you want me to bring something?”, I began the conversation with, “You are not doing it all this year.  What can I do to help?”  Caregiver, I know that you see the difference, and you need to know that your loved one hears the difference loud and clear. When it is time to delegate, don’t just ask for someone to bring the sodas and bread.  Ask for some of the things that take time to prepare.  Otherwise, delegating is for nothing.  Don’t just delegate the cooking.  You can delegate some of the decorating.  This is your family.  Have one of the children or grandchildren come and help with the tree.  For a COPD patient, it becomes difficult to raise their arms above their head over and over, so decorating the tree can be very difficult.  Order a pizza and make it a fun family time sharing stories while someone else is decorating.
  3. Begin the cooking process early. Don’t wait until the last minute to try to pull it all together.  If you are making a casserole, many times you can do that a day or two before and place it in the refrigerator until the day of the event to cook.  Lasagna is a good example.  The meat is already cooked when you prepare it, so it can be created a day or two (at most) before it is needed.  Most cakes can be baked ahead of time and placed in the freezer.  Just leave the icing off until it has thawed out.  Some people even say that a cake that has been frozen is more moist than one that is freshly prepared.  Either way, it would take a large chunk out of your preparation. Whatever can be accomplished the day before, should be done the day before.  This will allow the family time to be just that, family time.  Let the physical exhaustion come from laughing too much rather than standing in front of the stove for hours before the family arrives.

I hope that these ideas will help you manage your holidays.  These are the times to celebrate what is important: Family!  Enjoy your time with them.

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