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Caregiving and the Holidays

Wednesday December 2, 2015

Truck with Christmas trees - Caregiving and The Holidays: Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

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.

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).