Navigating the Holidays with a Chronic Illness

PicnicHealth | Navigating the Holidays with a Chronic Illness
Brittany Quiroz
November 22, 2023
Blog post originally written by the AllStripes community team. AllStripes was acquired by PicnicHealth in 2023.

The first of November has sort of always been the mental marker for me to “up my game” for the Holiday Season. Pumpkin lattes and all things Gourd related are being shoved down our throats. I used to like Pumpkin Spice but now I think it’s safe to say the Pumpkin Craze has gone a bit overboard. Nevertheless I still have love for those that get suckered into the few months of insane commercialism and Seasonal Trends.


You have to know what pieces to move when and really plot out the best strategy or you willwind up getting eaten by Santa himself and die. Just kidding. You’re not going to die but the level of hell you will put yourself through if you don’t plan things out will probably appear more hell-ish than what you planned on in the first place.


Start to think about gift ideas in August and start preparing to purchase in Oct/Nov. Gift cards are always a safe bet or gift certificates to local restaurants, travel vouchers or even spa days. Wine club memberships are also a great gift that requires little planning. The better we can plan in the earlier months, the smoother our attack will be. I like to purchase most gifts in Oct and stash them somewhere in my house.


I’m sure you’ve started to maybe iron out who is doing what Holiday. Maybe your in-laws handle Thanksgiving so you will be taking over Christmas. But either way start to think about what meal you want to make, serve or purchase ahead of time. A lot of businesses offer premade dinners for the Holidays so you don’t have to do the work but require a reservation way in advance. Maybe you want to go out instead. Call around and find out who is offering a holiday meal and get on the reservation list. Things book up fast. Making a game plan for what you want to make allows for less cognitive confusion and meltdowns in the grocery store when the time comes to buy. You already have a list of what to get because you wrote it down ahead of time! Figure out if you need help cooking and make a cooking day of it with family and friends! This is a fantastic way to go “all hands on deck” and make it an enjoyable afternoon.


Scheduling around the Holidays can be really overwhelming. Our lives don’t stop because the Holidays show up. We are still managing Dr appnts, Physical Therapy, MRIs, Scans, Bloodwork etc. So plan well in advance to make sure you’re not scheduling your MRI’s a few days before a major Holiday. The kids will be on vacation also so planning ahead can be a great way to manage your time wisely, get everything in you want to accomplish without causing yourself to go into a flare or relapse. Pick and choose which invitations are priority to get those scheduled first. You don’t have to RVSP ”Yes” to every invitation.


The holiday season meaning you are probably running around like a chicken with your head cut off so get some extra help. I just recently hired some help with cleaning our home because of the sq feet of our home, it’s become way too much for my body to handle and winds up taking days to get it all done. We moved from a 1400 sq ft condo to a 2200 sq ft house. It’s A LOT for any single person not to mention a disabled person. But the ease of knowing all the deep and hard work is done for me allows the weekly maintenance to be so much easier. It’s not lingering and haunting me at night knowing the house is a mess and I don’t have the energy to fix it. If hiring someone is out of your budget then opt for a “all hands on deck” cleaning day! Ask family and even your kiddos for some help! Throw some tunes on and make a day of it! Go through your home and don’t be afraid to give it an enema of things you haven’t touched in years. Donate it, gift it or get rid of it! Organization is key to keeping a tidy and clean home.


I hear this constantly around Christmas Time that people are wrapping down to the wire. Like, wrapping Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day. This has to be stressful. I get all of my wrapping done in November believe it or not. I plan a day when I’m home alone, lay everything out on the dining table, put on music and have a ball doing it. Make sure to make a list of gifts you bought and list who they are for. It can be confusing shopping so early and then forgetting what you bought. You don’t want to overbuy. This allows you keep track of everything. But back to wrapping. Wrapping in advance makes less work when the Holidays are actually here. Meaning you get to ENJOY it more and WORK LESS! I like to wrap everything in just my paper first But save the bows and ribbons for the weeks leading up to the Holiday. That way I can stack and store them without bows getting rumpled. But all the hard work is done. Ribbons and Bows after are easy! Then everything goes under your tree. Boom. You’re welcome.


Holiday shopping literally makes me want to cry. Even just to get toilet paper at the store is a difficult task because I’m fighting through the crowds that want to get the best price on the newest flat screen. I just need TP to wipe my peach folks. Get to the stores EARLY and stock up on essential home items like, laundry detergent, coffee, toilet paper, paper goods, cases of water or even meats. We have an extra fridge in our garage so stocking up on meats is easy! Getting everything you need in bulk means you’re going out LESS. So less traffic, less fighting for a parking spot and less anxiety attacks. Yup, those happen. A LOT.


These are just a few tips I can offer to allow you to feel less “I want to jump into oncoming traffic” during the Holidays. I’m sure I will think of some more when the holes in my brain decide to stop influencing the way I produce a thought. But for now, you have a place to start!


Brittany Quiroz

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Create a List

List the names of all the doctors, hospitals, and other facilities your loved one visits regularly, along with those they have visited in the past. Try to go back as far as you can, striving for at least the last 5-10 years, but do your best. Even if you can’t remember them all, having a strong baseline can help you quickly identify gaps in records.

Ensure You Have the Appropriate Legal Status

It is important to make sure that you are fully empowered to make decisions on behalf of your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Your relationship status with the patient may not be enough to legally give you access to your loved one's medical information. It is a good idea to talk to an expert about securing special legal status, such as Power of Attorney (POA), a legal document that allows an individual to name someone as their decision maker should they no longer be able to make decisions on their own.

Gather and Organize the Medical Records in One Place

It’s important to have all of your loved one’s medical records together in one spot. This makes it much easier for you and your loved one’s physicians to accurately map the patient’s medical journey and more easily share information between doctors. Fortunately, tools exist to make record management and access simple. A free resource like PicnicHealth helps you collect and organize all of this information. PicnicHealth’s intuitive timeline allows you to pinpoint data across the medical history, eliminating your need for keeping heavy binders filled with paper records or keeping track of multiple software portal logins.

Review the Medical Records to be an Informed Advocate

The better you understand your loved one's medical history, the better you can advocate on their behalf. Access and understanding of this information will help you to ask informed questions with physicians. Through regular communication backed by the data in the medical records, you can help your loved one’s care team develop a more successful care plan.

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Together, we can make a difference.

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Build a support network.

When you’re juggling appointment times and insurance claims, putting a robust support system together might not strike you as the most urgent task. Investing the time to cultivate relationships with people can turn to in times of need will pay dividends. The next time you need a last-minute ride or just someone to listen, you won’t be on your own.

There are many condition-specific support groups and support groups for caregivers generally in person or online. In addition to the encouragement and empathy they provide, support groups can be a helpful source of tips, resources, and recommendations for navigating caregiving.


Stay organized.

The backbone of effective caregiving is organization. Keep medical information, appointment schedules, and medication lists in order. Use a planner or a digital service like PicnicHealth to stay on top of your responsibilities. This attention to detail can prevent future complications and reduce day-to-day stress.


Explore treatments and clinical trials.

We’ve seen incredible breakthroughs in treatment over the past couple of years, powered by patients and their caregivers participating in research. Stay in the loop about the latest in medical advancements and available resources that could benefit your loved one. Whether it’s a new therapy option or a community service that aids independence, being informed can make a world of difference in the quality of care you provide.


Make time for self-care.

It may seem self-centered to focus on self-care—but when you feel good, you can be a better caregiver. Whether it’s exercise, a mindfulness practice, a soak in the bath, or just time to rest when you need it, carve out those moments in the day when you can unwind, reset, and stay healthy mentally and physically. Think of it as building up your reserves of kindness, patience, and understanding—which can only benefit your loved one. No one can pour from an empty cup.

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LC-FAOD Odyssey: A Preliminary Analysis, presented at INFORM 2021

Data from real-world medical records:

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

16 yrs old

Median age at enrollment

38% Female

15 providers / patient

7.5 years of data / patient

Data from patient-reported outcome (PRO) survey

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

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However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate amount of protein for your individual needs. In general, a diet with moderate protein intake (about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day) is recommended for people with kidney diseases.

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