Holiday Travel and Serious Illness

When a loved one is sick, figuring out how to coordinate holiday gatherings can be a real challenge, particularly if you have family that lives far away.

Before deciding what to do, take the following concerns into consideration.

  1. Is your loved one well enough to travel?

Plane and car rides are exhausting even for people who are in good physical health. If you’re unsure about whether or not your loved one will be comfortable during travel, you might consider asking their doctor’s opinion. Perhaps certain travel accommodations can be made to make the journey easier, or perhaps travelling isn’t a good idea at all.

  1. If traveling isn’t an option, can your loved one handle a lot of visitors?

If your loved one isn’t up for a plane or car ride this year, you might be considering bringing the party to them. However, depending on how ill they are, your loved one might not have the energy to entertain people in their home. For some, interacting with large groups of people is exhausting.

  1. Will your loved one be able to enjoy the festivities?

Once again, depending on how sick your loved one is, there is a possibility that they won’t be able or willing to participate in the usual holiday activities. A large meal, opening gifts or even staying awake for a few hours a time might not be possibilities. Ask yourself- are they physically able to enjoy this occasion? Furthermore, is their physical inability to participate likely to cause them to feel depressed, frustrated, confused or even angry?

If you don’t think that traveling or having a large group of people over is a good idea, consider the following alternatives for holiday gatherings.

  1. Gather somewhere separate, but nearby.

Consider hosting the holiday festivities somewhere other than your loved one’s home. If no one lives near your loved one, you could rent a house for a few days (websites like Airbnb are great for renting private houses). Then, you can have small amounts of people visit your loved one in shifts (rather than all at once) so they aren’t overwhelmed by visitors.

  1. Include them in the festivities that you know they can handle.

If you know the physical state of your loved one well enough, you can tailor small holiday activities to them so that they feel included. You might bring over a gift or two for your loved one to open, or make them a small holiday meal.

  1. Don’t be afraid to change traditions.

Even if your family has had the same holiday tradition for 20 years, it’s OK to change things up when you have a seriously ill family member. Don’t feel obligated to stick to tradition just for tradition’s sake. When making plans, consider what is best for the emotional and physical well-being of you, your loved one and the rest of the family.