Caregiving and the Holidays

The holidays can be stressful. No surprise, right? We tend to spend the holiday months in a blur of activities. Parties, family get-togethers, church activities… the list goes on and on. The holidays are also a time for family traditions – donning Christmas aprons to make homemade desserts, decorating the tree with heirloom ornaments, driving hours to share a meal with family. These pastimes can be exciting and meaningful, but when you’re caring for a loved one with memory loss, the holiday frenzy can cause additional stress.

The following are tips to keep in mind for this holiday season. We hope these tips will help make the holidays a bit easier for you and your loved one.

You’re also welcome to join us on Tuesday, December 8 from 4-5 pm at Page Robbins as we discuss “Managing the Holidays” during our monthly Caregiver Support Group. Lowry Whitehorn, Bereavement Counselor at Crossroads Hospice will be our guest speaker. This session is free and open to the public.

Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Holiday Preparations

  • Simplify. It’s okay to start new, smaller traditions. For example, if it feels overwhelming to decorate the whole house, then just decorate the mantel or put up a small tree.
  • Don’t aim for perfection. Perfect holidays aren’t attainable. Perfect anything isn’t attainable! It’s easy to think on times past with rose colored glasses, but no holiday is perfect. Your situation has changed. Don’t feel that you need to live up to the expectations of friends and family members. Take stock of where you’re at, set your own limits.
  • Make a to-do list, so you’ll know exactly what needs to be done.
  • Plan ahead for small outings. Instead of taking your loved one on a day full of errands, break up errands into multiple outings and plan those outings at times when stores are likely to be less busy.
  • Know that you don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation you receive. Everything in moderation. Be picky about which events you attend.
  • Have important conversations beforehand. As needed, familiarize others with the situation. Let those who don’t see your loved one often know how he or she is doing and what they should expect.
  • Make your own wish list. When a friend or family member asks, “How can I help you?” have a wish list ready (a physical/electronic list, not just a mental one). Some items on your list might be a few hours of respite on a Saturday or overnight respite, meals, home repairs, etc.
  • Encourage family members to shop non-traditionally. Suggest items for your loved one such as socks, comfy sweaters, a puzzle, or a coffee table book with large pictures, on a topic of interest.
  • Book your homecare worker early. This is a busy season. Call your preferred home care agency early with desired dates, so you can be sure to get on their calendars.

Holiday Gatherings

  • Keep conversations light. Encourage family members and friends to tell stories instead of quizzing your loved one. NOT: “Do you remember when we went to the Grand Canyon for Christmas?” or “Do you remember Cousin Whitney?” Instead: “One of my favorite Christmases was when we went to the Grand Canyon. We sang Christmas carols while we were stuck in traffic for hours. That was a fun trip.” or “Cousin Whitney used to love to visit you, so she could have some of your blueberry pie.”
  • Don’t rock the boat. Holiday gatherings are not the best time to have a family argument about the sister who isn’t as involved as you would like her to be. Instead, focus on making the holidays special.
  • Designate a quiet room. If visitors are coming over or you are going to a party elsewhere, it is a good idea to have a quiet room for your loved one. Select a room away from the noise and crowd, where your loved one can sit and relax, and friends can go visit one-on-one with your loved one. Make sure the room has a comfortable chair and perhaps books or a TV. Your loved one may also enjoy sitting by the window or listening to music.
  • Try to maintain regular sleeping and eating schedules. If you have a mid-afternoon Christmas lunch, your loved one will need to eat something at his or her regular meal time. It doesn’t need to be a full meal, just a small protein and fruit portion to tide over until the big meal. Also, someone should observe and monitor any potential alcohol consumption for that individual as well. One cup of egg nog might turn in to 5 if no one is paying attention! Try your best to maintain normal rest and nighttime sleep schedules.
  • Sit back, and enjoy. Embrace each moment, or as we say at Page Robbins, seize the day. Enjoy the time you have with your loved one.

If you’re looking for more information, we hope you’ll join us for the support group. If you aren’t able, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack, and Executive Director, Herbie Krisle, are available to talk with you and answer questions (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org, herbi@pagerobbins.org).


Advance Directives

The greatest gift my mother ever gave me came the week after my daddy died. Daddy had undiagnosed stomach cancer that had been diagnosed as an ulcer and treated accordingly. The blood work showed something else was terribly wrong: the malignancy had metastasized throughout his body. He died 4 days after being hospitalized. We had to make many decisions quickly about life support, feeding tubes and the like. Though we thought we knew what his desires would be, we were required to make the choices.

The week after his death, Mother made an appointment with her attorney and had all the powers of attorney and advance directives completed. She told me I would never have to make those hard choices, ever again. Little did we know that in just a few years, she would experience profound memory loss and would not be able to make those choices known. If she would not have completed those advance directives, I would have had nothing in writing – just words from a past conversation where she told me she did not want to have any ‘heroic’ efforts made if she could not live a normal life.

If your loved one has advance directives completed, I know you are grateful. But if not, what can you, as a family, do? While you can’t complete a living will FOR someone, as a family, you can have a calm discussion about it and come to a joint decision BEFORE a decision is needed. Decisions made in the midst of a crisis are difficult, and often it is impossible to get all parties together when a split second decision is needed. Two big decisions that families often have to make are:

  • Would you have a feeding tube inserted if your loved one could no longer swallow?
  • Would you have CPR begun on your loved one in the event of heart attack/coronary arrest?

This Thursday, May 21 from 4:00 to 5:00 pm, we will host Wine and Unwind at Page Robbins. This month’s topic is “Advance Directives: What do I need to know?” with guest speakers Emily Stuart, LBSW and Julie Beaty, LBSW from Crossroads Hospice. Please call us at 901-854-1200 to RSVP. All of our support groups and educational sessions are free and open to the public.

If you’re looking for more information about advance directives, we hope you’ll join us for Wine and Unwind. If you aren’t able to join, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack is available to talk with you, answer questions, and point you to a variety of resources (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org).

Written by Herbie Krisle, Executive Director


Should you be concerned?

Several members of our staff had a movie night recently and watched Still Alice. We all remarked about what a well done movie it was and how true to life many things were – like how everyone initially overlooked her “slips” and odd choices of words until the lapses were too significant to misunderstand.

Many of you are facing similar issues, maybe not with a middle aged person with young onset Alzheimer’s disease but with an older adult who is experiencing problems.

These are some things to watch for:

  • Improper handling of financial matters
  • Missing appointments or special days
  • Lack of attention to personal appearance and personal hygiene
  • Reduced housekeeping, food preparation and often changes in eating habits/patterns
  • Change of demeanor

If your loved one is exhibiting these behavior changes, we recommend that you take him or her to see a physician who can give a diagnosis. There are many times when these issues will have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia but may be cause by something reversible, such as a vitamin deficiency. Early review by a doctor who has strengths in this area is important.

On Saturday, April 11 from 9 to 10 am, we will host Starting Point, our quarterly support group for caregivers of those who have been recently diagnosed or those who have yet to be diagnosed but the family knows something isn’t quite right. We hope you will make plans to attend if you have questions and/or need support in this area. If you are interested, please RSVP by calling 901.854.1200. All of our support groups are free and open to the public.

If you have questions about this or other care-related topics, give us a call at 901.854.1200. Our Social Worker will be happy to talk with you and answer your questions.

More about the Still Alice movie
More about Lisa Genova’s book Still Alice


Care & Share Archive

Blog Archive
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • December 2, 2015

    Caregiving and the Holidays

    The holidays can be stressful. No surprise, right? We tend to spend the holiday months in a blur of activities. Parties, family get-togethers, church activities… the list goes on and on. The holidays are also a time for family traditions – donning Christmas aprons to make homemade desserts, decorating the tree with heirloom ornaments, driving hours to share a meal with family. These pastimes can be exciting and meaningful, but when you’re caring for a loved one with memory loss, the holiday frenzy can cause additional stress.

    The following are tips to keep in mind for this holiday season. We hope these tips will help make the holidays a bit easier for you and your loved one.

    You’re also welcome to join us on Tuesday, December 8 from 4-5 pm at Page Robbins as we discuss “Managing the Holidays” during our monthly Caregiver Support Group. Lowry Whitehorn, Bereavement Counselor at Crossroads Hospice will be our guest speaker. This session is free and open to the public.

    Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

    Holiday Preparations

    • Simplify. It’s okay to start new, smaller traditions. For example, if it feels overwhelming to decorate the whole house, then just decorate the mantel or put up a small tree.
    • Don’t aim for perfection. Perfect holidays aren’t attainable. Perfect anything isn’t attainable! It’s easy to think on times past with rose colored glasses, but no holiday is perfect. Your situation has changed. Don’t feel that you need to live up to the expectations of friends and family members. Take stock of where you’re at, set your own limits.
    • Make a to-do list, so you’ll know exactly what needs to be done.
    • Plan ahead for small outings. Instead of taking your loved one on a day full of errands, break up errands into multiple outings and plan those outings at times when stores are likely to be less busy.
    • Know that you don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation you receive. Everything in moderation. Be picky about which events you attend.
    • Have important conversations beforehand. As needed, familiarize others with the situation. Let those who don’t see your loved one often know how he or she is doing and what they should expect.
    • Make your own wish list. When a friend or family member asks, “How can I help you?” have a wish list ready (a physical/electronic list, not just a mental one). Some items on your list might be a few hours of respite on a Saturday or overnight respite, meals, home repairs, etc.
    • Encourage family members to shop non-traditionally. Suggest items for your loved one such as socks, comfy sweaters, a puzzle, or a coffee table book with large pictures, on a topic of interest.
    • Book your homecare worker early. This is a busy season. Call your preferred home care agency early with desired dates, so you can be sure to get on their calendars.

    Holiday Gatherings

    • Keep conversations light. Encourage family members and friends to tell stories instead of quizzing your loved one. NOT: “Do you remember when we went to the Grand Canyon for Christmas?” or “Do you remember Cousin Whitney?” Instead: “One of my favorite Christmases was when we went to the Grand Canyon. We sang Christmas carols while we were stuck in traffic for hours. That was a fun trip.” or “Cousin Whitney used to love to visit you, so she could have some of your blueberry pie.”
    • Don’t rock the boat. Holiday gatherings are not the best time to have a family argument about the sister who isn’t as involved as you would like her to be. Instead, focus on making the holidays special.
    • Designate a quiet room. If visitors are coming over or you are going to a party elsewhere, it is a good idea to have a quiet room for your loved one. Select a room away from the noise and crowd, where your loved one can sit and relax, and friends can go visit one-on-one with your loved one. Make sure the room has a comfortable chair and perhaps books or a TV. Your loved one may also enjoy sitting by the window or listening to music.
    • Try to maintain regular sleeping and eating schedules. If you have a mid-afternoon Christmas lunch, your loved one will need to eat something at his or her regular meal time. It doesn’t need to be a full meal, just a small protein and fruit portion to tide over until the big meal. Also, someone should observe and monitor any potential alcohol consumption for that individual as well. One cup of egg nog might turn in to 5 if no one is paying attention! Try your best to maintain normal rest and nighttime sleep schedules.
    • Sit back, and enjoy. Embrace each moment, or as we say at Page Robbins, seize the day. Enjoy the time you have with your loved one.

    If you’re looking for more information, we hope you’ll join us for the support group. If you aren’t able, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack, and Executive Director, Herbie Krisle, are available to talk with you and answer questions (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org, herbi@pagerobbins.org).


    May 18, 2015

    Advance Directives

    The greatest gift my mother ever gave me came the week after my daddy died. Daddy had undiagnosed stomach cancer that had been diagnosed as an ulcer and treated accordingly. The blood work showed something else was terribly wrong: the malignancy had metastasized throughout his body. He died 4 days after being hospitalized. We had to make many decisions quickly about life support, feeding tubes and the like. Though we thought we knew what his desires would be, we were required to make the choices.

    The week after his death, Mother made an appointment with her attorney and had all the powers of attorney and advance directives completed. She told me I would never have to make those hard choices, ever again. Little did we know that in just a few years, she would experience profound memory loss and would not be able to make those choices known. If she would not have completed those advance directives, I would have had nothing in writing – just words from a past conversation where she told me she did not want to have any ‘heroic’ efforts made if she could not live a normal life.

    If your loved one has advance directives completed, I know you are grateful. But if not, what can you, as a family, do? While you can’t complete a living will FOR someone, as a family, you can have a calm discussion about it and come to a joint decision BEFORE a decision is needed. Decisions made in the midst of a crisis are difficult, and often it is impossible to get all parties together when a split second decision is needed. Two big decisions that families often have to make are:

    • Would you have a feeding tube inserted if your loved one could no longer swallow?
    • Would you have CPR begun on your loved one in the event of heart attack/coronary arrest?

    This Thursday, May 21 from 4:00 to 5:00 pm, we will host Wine and Unwind at Page Robbins. This month’s topic is “Advance Directives: What do I need to know?” with guest speakers Emily Stuart, LBSW and Julie Beaty, LBSW from Crossroads Hospice. Please call us at 901-854-1200 to RSVP. All of our support groups and educational sessions are free and open to the public.

    If you’re looking for more information about advance directives, we hope you’ll join us for Wine and Unwind. If you aren’t able to join, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack is available to talk with you, answer questions, and point you to a variety of resources (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org).

    Written by Herbie Krisle, Executive Director


    March 25, 2015

    Should you be concerned?

    Several members of our staff had a movie night recently and watched Still Alice. We all remarked about what a well done movie it was and how true to life many things were – like how everyone initially overlooked her “slips” and odd choices of words until the lapses were too significant to misunderstand.

    Many of you are facing similar issues, maybe not with a middle aged person with young onset Alzheimer’s disease but with an older adult who is experiencing problems.

    These are some things to watch for:

    • Improper handling of financial matters
    • Missing appointments or special days
    • Lack of attention to personal appearance and personal hygiene
    • Reduced housekeeping, food preparation and often changes in eating habits/patterns
    • Change of demeanor

    If your loved one is exhibiting these behavior changes, we recommend that you take him or her to see a physician who can give a diagnosis. There are many times when these issues will have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia but may be cause by something reversible, such as a vitamin deficiency. Early review by a doctor who has strengths in this area is important.

    On Saturday, April 11 from 9 to 10 am, we will host Starting Point, our quarterly support group for caregivers of those who have been recently diagnosed or those who have yet to be diagnosed but the family knows something isn’t quite right. We hope you will make plans to attend if you have questions and/or need support in this area. If you are interested, please RSVP by calling 901.854.1200. All of our support groups are free and open to the public.

    If you have questions about this or other care-related topics, give us a call at 901.854.1200. Our Social Worker will be happy to talk with you and answer your questions.

    More about the Still Alice movie
    More about Lisa Genova’s book Still Alice