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Preparing for the Holidays in 2020

Tuesday November 3, 2020

a mask on a red background - preparing for the holidays 2020 edition

The holidays are usually overwhelmingly busy. Parties to attend, family to visit and entertain, gifts to buy, dishes to make. It can all be too much – especially when you are caring for a loved one with dementia. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

2020 is the perfect year to simplify. The point of the holidays isn’t all the stuff and the hoopla. The point is to celebrate, to honor, and to cherish. It’s okay if the season isn’t as grand as it once was. You want to know the best holiday recipe? A heaping cup of simplicity and a half of a cup of planning with a pinch of good communication and boundary setting. That makes for some joyful days!

Here’s our recipe for happy holidays. We suggest you start prepping the ingredients now, but in your holiday prep, keep in mind that there is no perfect holiday. Perfection is unattainable, but good days are possible. This is how we think you can make them happen:

Choose your gatherings wisely.

Strategically pick which events you would like to attend (and which events will be safe!). It is okay to say no to an invitation. And you do NOT need to feel guilty about it. To protect yours and your loved one’s health, you may have to say no to an invitation that is hard to miss out on. Be open with your friends and family about that. And if you can’t talk to them, talk to us. This is a difficult time, and we all need to grieve the much-needed family and social time that we are having to miss out on.

Gather with caution.

If you are going to gather with those outside of your immediate household, wear faces masks and stay socially distant. Spend time outside if you can. Make sure everyone washes their hands. If there is shared food, have one person serve the food – masked and with clean hands. Lots of COVID transmission is happening at small gatherings of family and friends where there are shared serving utensils, pitchers, etc. that many people touch.

We can’t stress the importance of this point enough. It is better to be safe than sorry. As Brene Brown says, “We’re all COVID-done, but COVID isn’t done.”

Scale down and turn down the volume.

Your loved one may not be able to handle a full day of holiday festivities. Limit time at gatherings. You can also find a quiet room for your loved one to be in and ask select family and friends to visit one-on-one in a much more manageable environment.

Stick to the routine.

The holidays can get our schedules out of whack. Keep routines as much as possible because routines make for easier days. Serve meals at regular times, schedule afternoon rest at the regular time, go to sleep at the regular time. Keeping to a schedule will help your loved one remain as rested as possible.

Involve your loved one.

While Mom may not be able to independently make her famous coconut cake, she can help pour pre-measured ingredients and stir everything together. While Grandpa might not be able to chop wood or light the fireplace, he can help carry in a piece of wood. While your wife may not be able to play the piano, she can still sing along, dance, or just enjoy the music.

Make a wish list for you and your loved one.

Gift ideas: money to pay for care, soft blankets, 30-piece puzzles, magazine subscription, gift cards for stores or for meals to-go, favorite music, a personalized book with family pictures and captions about who is in each picture/what is going on in the pictures.

Help your family know how to interact.

Explain to family about your loved one’s current state, so they will know what to expect. Remind them NOT TO QUIZ. Instead of asking, “Do you know who I am?” coach them to prompt: “Grandpa, it’s Jason. I’m so glad to see you.” And instead of asking, “Susan, who is in this picture?” coach them to tell a story: “Susan, (while showing the picture), here is a picture of us in Gatlinburg. That was a fun trip. It snowed the whole time.” Remind family members not to argue, even if what is being said makes no sense. Go with the flow of the conversation.

Simplify decorations.

Too many decorations may be too much for your loved one to take in… and too much for you to put up. It is okay to scale down. Maybe you only decorate the mantle or have a tabletop tree instead of decking out the whole house. Maybe you just put a wreath on the door instead of lights everywhere. Maybe you just put out a pretty tablecloth instead of the endless china set.

Plan ahead.

Planning ahead allows you to create opportunities for success. Order your groceries online to avoid craziness at the store. Start your gift shopping early or order online to avoid the rush and crowds. Crowds are overwhelming and unsafe. Plan around them.

Make time for yourself.

Plan for an in-home caregiver, so you can meet a friend or get shopping done. (Schedule this EARLY!) Or ask a family member to come stay with your loved one, so you can get things done.

Enjoy!

Sit with your loved one and listen to Christmas music. Turn down the lights and watch the tree glow. Go for a drive to see lights. Watch an old Christmas movie that you both have always loved. Eat pumpkin pie for breakfast. Take time to enjoy the holidays and your family.

2 Important Bonus Notes:

1. If you are traveling, it is so important to plan, plan, plan. Especially now! Search “travel” to find our travel-themed blog posts.
2. If your loved one lives in a facility, ask about their holiday plans. Will they allow visitors? How many? Where and when can you visit? What holiday activities do they have planned?