Tips for Hosting Overnight Guests When You Suffer from Chronic Pain

Your relatives from another state have called and said they would like to come for a visit. You’re glad, but you also feel a bit of panic. What should you do with your visitors? What can you feed them? Is this even a good time for you? Is your arthritis going to be problem? Hosting overnight guests can be a joy, but it can also be a challenge. Preparing your home, planning meals and keeping your guests entertained can seem like a major undertaking. Adding hosting duties to your already busy life, which may include working, caring for others and handling your normal personal activities, can feel overwhelming. And when you have arthritis, pain and fatigue can be additional obstacles. There is an art to providing for your guests’ needs while still taking care of yourself. Read our tips for hosting guests when you suffer from chronic pain. If you want to entertain houseguests but find it difficult to do so, this article will give you ideas for making it easier.

Depending on your style of entertaining, some of the ideas that follow may seem like overdoing it, and others may seem like not doing enough. It is important to understand that you have choices. You may want to entertain just as your mother always did, but you may need to adjust your and your guests’ expectations according to your abilities. Know that there is no one right way to do things, and that being organized, staying flexible and doing what works best for you are the keys to successful entertaining.

Planning ahead

Knowing what to expect from the upcoming visit is very helpful. Ask a few questions of your visitors to help guide you in your preparations. Is there a specific purpose to their visit? Are they coming just to see you, or are they planning to visit others during their stay? Are they interested in sightseeing? How many days and nights do they hope to stay? On what days and at what times do they expect to arrive and depart?

For example, perhaps your guests hope to stay for a week to sightsee and learn about the history of your area. While they are in town, they hope to visit a few wineries and take in a play. You may realize that a weeklong visit is too much for you, or that you have no interest in accompanying your visitors on a certain activity. In this case, tell them which days and nights would be best for you to host them, what meals you can offer, and what activities you hope to do with them. Guide your guests in developing a schedule that works for you, including their arrival and departure days and times.

When you’re discussing the upcoming visit with your guests, let them know what is going on in your life at that time, such as a scheduled doctor’s visit or weekly yoga class. Considerate guests will not want to interfere with your normal schedule. Guests should feel free to do something on their own while you continue with your activities. Be willing to negotiate and make suggestions on how your guests can spend their time when you aren’t available. Once you and your guests have agreed on the agenda, do your best to stick to it.

Of course, you will also need to know how many guests will be coming and how many separate rooms and beds they will need. In addition, you should ask whether there are any health issues, disabilities or dietary restrictions that you should address. If you know about these specifics ahead of time, you can plan ahead instead of scurrying around at the last minute, which can be stressful and use up your energy. Being aware that people are lactose intolerant or that they need to have a certain food to eat when they take medicine is important. And knowing what accommodations people need, such as one-floor living, a handicapped-accessible bathroom, an extra-firm mattress or bedding that won’t cause allergies, can also be helpful information. You may not be able to accommodate all special needs, but talking about them ahead of time can help your guests plan accordingly. If your guests need something you can’t provide, you can offer to help them find a local hotel with the services they require.

Preparing your home

Getting as much done as possible before your guests arrive can help you provide a comfortable experience for them and reduce your workload while they are visiting. Advance preparations include readying the guest room, cleaning and shopping for groceries and other supplies. Get started as far in advance as possible so you can spread the work over several days. Consider making a schedule to help you space out the physical tasks. For example, plan to clean one room each day, or do the upstairs on one day and the downstairs on another. This is a great time to enlist the aid of family members or to consider hiring help. Although an impending visit may motivate you to redecorate or paint a room, resist the temptation to do too much. You want to be as well-rested as possible before guests arrive.

If possible, keep one room in your house available for overnight guests. Having a dedicated guest room can reduce the amount of work needed to prepare for visits; you may simply need to put fresh sheets on the bed or do a quick dusting before they arrive. If you don’t have a dedicated guest room and instead put guests up in a living room or office, keep the sheets, blankets and spare toiletries you use for guests in a nearby closet, and simply pull them out when necessary.

If other members of your household are able to help you prepare for the visit, ask them to help ready the guest room and gather the supplies your guests may need. Little things can demonstrate how glad you are to have your guests. Your visitors may appreciate a small vase of fresh flowers, wrapped chocolates on a turned-down sheet or a bottle of water on the nightstand. Keeping extra toiletries and tools on hand, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, deodorant, body wash, shampoo, lotion, razors, Band-Aids, antibiotic cream, bug spray, thread and needles and scissors, may be a good idea in case your guests need them. This could save you or them a trip to the drugstore during their visit. Making the bed, putting out extra blankets and leaving a short note with instructions on how to adjust the heat or air-conditioning can also be helpful. Make sure the room has a working alarm clock, space for at least one suitcase and a place to hang clothes.

Planning meals

For the least amount of work for everyone at mealtimes, keep take-out menus on hand so that you can order in, or plan to go out to restaurants. Often, guests offer to take their host out to eat to say thank you for all the host is doing.

If you’ll be cooking for your guests, plan easy meals using tried-and-true recipes. Baked potatoes with a few fixings are easy to prepare, and ice cream with chocolate sauce and fresh berries is a tasty, no-fuss dessert. Make a list of meals and ingredients and shop ahead of time. Keep the list on the counter as a reminder or to help you if you need to make a change. Dishes that you can make ahead, freeze and reheat work well. You can also purchase prepared dishes or baked goods. Some prepared items from the deli counter at the grocery store may be as good as or even better than what you can make from scratch. Try a recipe or prepared food ahead of time to see if it gets your stamp of approval.

To cut down on the number of meals you’ll need to worry about, you might consider serving just two meals a day: a big breakfast late in the morning and an early dinner. And although bringing out the good china and linen napkins is nice, using paper plates and napkins instead can help to keep the workload in check over the course of the visit.

During the visit

When your guests arrive, knowing how to keep them entertained can sometimes be a challenge. Do not feel you need to be with them all the time or go on every outing they take. Tell your guests which activities you would feel comfortable joining them for. Be willing to say that something they have planned won’t work for you. Some guests may enjoy seeing your area’s historical buildings or the beauty of local nature; you could help by printing out directions and information on places to visit. Other guests enjoy down time; reading books and magazines may be a treat and a welcome change from their busy lives. Some visitors love games and are glad for a round or two of bridge or Scrabble. And other guests really want to catch up on what has been going on with you and just want time to visit and chat.

Whatever you and your guests decide to do during their stay, it can be tiring to visit and talk with someone for hours or days on end. Long visits may need to include rest time for you. Before your guests arrive, let them know that you’ll need to relax alone for an hour or two in the afternoons or that you are always in bed by a certain time. Put out a few books or magazines that may be of interest to your guests, or remind them to bring a good book. If you like or need to sleep later than your guests usually do, put out their favorite tea or coffee in the kitchen, along with instructions on how to use the coffeemaker. Assure them that it is OK for them to take a walk or turn on the TV. If you stay home while your guests are away on an outing, take advantage of the free time to rest, or to get ready for the next meal or activity.

If you find the day-to-day duties of hosting to be difficult or tiring, it’s fine to ask your guests for help. Whether you need a hand with preparing meals, clearing the table or doing the dishes, asking guests to pitch in a little can make things easier on you. Accept guests’ offers to bring parts of meals. You could even ask guests to pick up breakfast, cheese and crackers or dessert on their way to see you, or while they are out during the visit.

When your guests are preparing to leave, ask them to remove their sheets and towels and put them in the washing machine. Even better, consider asking your guests to remake the bed with a clean set of sheets so it will be ready for a future visit. Some guests may suggest that they bring their own towels or other provisions. Take them up on their offer if it makes things easier on you. Guests are usually glad to help. After all, you have just provided them with a place to stay and a welcoming visit.

After the visit

If you have energy or someone to help you after your guests depart, get ready for the next visit. Restock supplies, change the sheets and review what went right and what you would like to change. Did your guests need more pillows than you had on hand? Write yourself a note to purchase additional pillows for future guests. Be aware of how tired you are and decide whether you would want to do anything differently in the future, such as cut back on the length of a visit from three nights to two. Maybe you would want guests to come over for meals only and stay with other relatives or at a hotel. Finally, be sure to get your well-deserved rest for a job well done.

As you prepare to host overnight guests, remember: The overall goal is for you and your visitors to enjoy your time together. The better prepared you are and the more you have communicated about your needs, the nicer a time you and your guests will have. Although you may think that your house has to be in perfect condition or that your meals need to be up to gourmet standards, your guests will care most that you are a fun, relaxed and well-rested host or hostess.

Want to learn more about managing everyday activities with chronic pain? Read “Working With Pain: 10 Tips,” “Making Housekeeping Easier With Joint Pain and Arthritis,” and “Tips for Bathing Safely With Stiff Joints and Pain.”

Wendy McBrair spent 30 years as a health-care professional in the fields of rheumatology and orthopedics, where she specialized in patient and community service, patient education and advocacy.

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