As the holiday season approaches, it is helpful to be proactive in your caregiving role. Here are a few ways to find balance in your holiday festivities. Whether you are a family member or an employee, proper planning can ensure a holiday season that is fabulous for the aging.
Here are a few options for your consideration.
• Alter traditions to make them appropriate for your loved one with dementia
For example, large family gatherings can be overwhelming and stressful. A few smaller gatherings, if at all possible over the holiday, would be far more effective for the person with dementia.
• Send a letter to family and friends prior to the holiday, to assist them on how to successfully visit with your loved one. Members of our support group report that this has proven to be very effective for both the person with dementia and those who are unsure of what to say or how to approach conversations in an appropriate manner. “Dad loves to talk about his garden” Recommend they ask him simply yes/no questions so he isn’t struggling to find a particular answer. “Did you get many tomatoes this year?” is a much easier question for him to answer than “What kinds of things did you plant this year?”
• If it isn’t working, switch gears! Don’t try and stick to a plan that is causing frustration or anxiety for the person with dementia. Completing the gingerbread house doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, the time together at the table does.
• Your caregiving role is important but also realize that this is your holiday as well. Allow yourself to enjoy the holiday season, creating new traditions and memories with your loved ones.
• If someone offers to help, say YES! Whether it is emptying the dishwasher or encouraging you to hit a Black Friday sale with your daughter for an hour or two, accept help when it is offered. You deserve it!
• It is okay to alter time-honored traditions to capture the spirit of the event. Grandma’s Christmas cookies can be altered to one batch of sugar cookies with everything out and ready to use, instead of a daylong event. A cup of tea with a sample of her hard work would be a lovely way to alter this tradition.
• Allow yourself to permission to say “no” if you feel overwhelmed by an invitation. Going to the restaurant for brunch on New Year’s Day may have always been a delightful family tradition. If it seems like too much to ask of your loved one who has had a lot of visitors and alterations to his/her normal routine, it is perfectly acceptable to decline this year.
Most importantly, less is sometimes more, and reminiscing is a fabulous use of your time. Those stories of old that can come out during the holiday season are the ones you want to be sure and have in your own mind.
Enjoy the holidays!!!