Thanksgiving is coming and will be followed by the December holidays. As a caregiver, will you look forward to a time of delight in family and friends, or a season of nearly unbearable stress?
Regardless of the holiday you’re celebrating, getting through each celebration can be like walking through a field of emotional land mines. Rather than risk disaster, why not find a new way through the season? You can do that by helping your loved one and the rest of the family re-set expectations as to how those celebrations will be lived out.
The first rule is to take into account the new reality of your circumstances. Trying to do the tried and true traditions as if nothing has changed is a recipe for disappointment and stress. Take honest stock of the circumstances—what can your loved do and not do? Structure a holiday plan that takes those circumstances into account.
For example, if your mom is suffering from Parkinson’s and has lost the ability to communicate clearly, then expecting her to read “The Night Before Christmas” as she always has is going to be a disaster. Instead, have other family members—how about the grandkids?-- take turns reading or reciting verses of the poem to your mom.
Having your lovd one help in the kitchen for holiday meals has to be assessed against her or his ability to do so. For example, you may be able to involve a dementia patient with a repetitive task, but one that keeps his or her safety as a priority. Perhaps they shouldn’t be chopping vegetables for the turkey stuffing, but maybe they can help folding napkins and setting the Thanksgiving table.
Someone who is ill, injured or suffering from a chronic condition doesn’t have a lot of stamina, so another way to do the holidays differently is to cut back on the number and duration of the parties. You did it when you had small children in order to keep your toddlers from becoming exhausted and susceptible to tantrums, or the first germs they encountered. Keep that same focus on the need for rest and healthful meals, and it will help you set limits that will support your loved one so they can enjoy the celebrations they attend.
If you are caring for a dementia patient, you are no doubt aware that crowds, even if they are familiar people, will cause anxiety and disorientation. Don’t forget that understanding during the holidays. Your loved one may not be able to handle more than two or three people at a time, so don’t invite the whole extended family to come all at one time.
You get the idea. Expand your traditions to make room for the new reality that all of you are living, and your holiday season will be joyful and enjoyable.