Creating a Joyous Holiday Season when You’re a Caregiver
For many people, the holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends at parties, get-togethers and special events. But for those who are caring for an elder loved one, the holidays can bring added stress. Shopping, getting ready for traveling, or welcoming visitors can seem overwhelming when you’re caring for someone. Additionally, holiday traditions may no longer hold any special significance to someone living with dementia of other chronic condition. And the burden of caregiving may have dampened your holiday spirit.
But it’s still possible for caregiver to celebrate the season. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your holidays.
Let go of expectations
Accept the fact that normal traditions may need some adjusting and that you can still have a wonderful holiday. Be grateful that your loved one is still around and enjoy simply being together. Let friends and other relatives know that you may be cutting back on certain activities.
Make a plan
Determine what’s most important to you and how you can make your personal traditions part of your new reality. Identify areas where you may need some help, either from family members or outside help. Call a family meeting if necessary and determine what activities will stay, what will get cut and what new traditions to start.
Caregiving doesn’t mean you have to give up your life. If you used to enjoy entertaining and seeing friends, consider having a few close friends over to celebrate the season. Prepare visitors in advance about your loved one’s condition so they know what to expect. Let your loved one know who’s coming. If they are living with dementia, provide pictures of guests beforehand if possible and consider having guests wear nametags. Have a quiet space where your loved one can go if the party becomes overwhelming.
Involve your loved one in holiday plans
Getting your loved one involved gives them a sense of purpose and may even ignite their holiday spirit. Have them help you bake cookies or something else the two of you used to do together. Giving them a purpose will make them feel part of what’s going on and more receptive to the event itself.
If your loved one is living with dementia, their diminishing cognition may make usual gifts unsuitable. Framed pictures of the two of you can ignite memories and make your loved one feel connected. Special lotions, soaps and shampoos can still be enjoyed and make the recipient feel pampered and cared for. If there are scents that are particularly meaningful to them (like a pine tree or strawberries), candles or soaps with these aromas can be particularly meaningful. Anything that stimulates the senses is a good gift and can include home-baked cookies and cakes. Dolls and stuffed animals are also good choices as they can provide companionship when you’re not around.
Take care of yourself
Taking care of someone else requires a great deal of self-care. Allow yourself to enjoy the season and spend time with family and friends, taking part in the festivities that are a big part of the holidays. Continue your healthcare regimen, which may include exercising, going to the doctor, or meditating. But being a good caregiver means taking care of yourself – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It’s important to continue doing those things that make life worth living.
Reprinted with permission from CareAGE Connections, https://www.careage.com/careage-connections.