The holiday season is here: A time of the year when Americans come together to honor cultural and spiritual traditions, exchange gifts, and surround themselves with family and loved ones.
Get-togethers prompt trips down memory lane and animated conversations. All too often, however, the subject of health or a medical condition is delicately avoided. Sure, it’s understandable that family and loved ones want to embrace a warm and happy atmosphere — but, in truth, a holiday gathering can be the best time and place to have that challenging conversation people have been avoiding all year.
Here are 4 simple reasons why the holidays can make having a difficult family discussion — especially about health — just a little bit easier.
1. At Last, Everyone Is Together
While it may sound a little morbid and awkward to combine challenging conversations with the holiday spirit and gifts, a holiday gathering is an ideal time to hash out important details about a health condition. Why? Because the simple fact is, a holiday get-together is often one of the few times during the year that family members are together in one place.
With parents, children, siblings, aunts, and uncles all under the same roof, a holiday gathering provides a great window of opportunity where people can feel loved, safe and secure, supported, and protected.
2. Step Out of Isolation
It’s not uncommon for people to ignore or put off discussing their health problems with others. For example, victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are often older men who have had proud, distinguished careers in the U.S. military, or as firefighters, mechanics, shipyard workers, or construction workers (to name only a few).
In fact, U.S. veterans account for around 30% of all mesothelioma patients. In many cases, such men often avoid talking about their health because they don’t want to appear feeble or weak. While everyone responds to difficult news in different ways, it’s important not to stay in isolation.
Using a holiday gathering as a way to open the lines of communication about a health issue or other tough topics can be tremendously resourceful. All of a sudden the situation becomes something that everyone has to face together, and the family becomes a team — offering help, guidance, stability, advice, and assistance.
A family member may know of a specialist, new treatment options, or perhaps an encouraging new study that may offer peace of mind to a loved one who has been recently diagnosed.
3. Learn Caregiving Options
After a serious health diagnosis, caregiving options need to be explored. A holiday gathering is the perfect platform to begin such a discussion.
Find out who and when family members are available to help with daily activities or personal care — such as meal preparation or bathing. In-home health care is often a necessity for many mesothelioma patients who become too ill to care for themselves independently.
Family members can divide chores and responsibilities, and hash out the important details concerning care, safety, and emergencies. Family members can even arrange to have an electronic alert system set up that can be used to summon immediate help in life-threatening situations.
4. Laughter Is the Best Medicine
There’s no way around it: Challenging conversations almost always involve serious undertones that tug at the heartstrings. But after the difficult issue has been presented and everyone has had a turn to compassionately speak, families have a natural way of channeling a different form of energy: Humor.
A light-hearted game of “family favorites” or telling a few “remember when” stories can fuel some great belly-laughs. “Laughter is the best medicine” is an adage for a reason: It can go a long way toward helping people feel better and, as recent studies have shown, relieve stress.
Remember: The holidays present a great opportunity to enjoy one’s family and loved ones. And even though things can get complicated, it is important to remember that when it comes to health issues, everyone is on the same team, sharing a common goal — to support their loved one’s quality of life, wellbeing, and safety.