While the holidays can bring the joy of reuniting with family and friends, for many caregivers, the holidays can add stress to an already challenging role. Along with shopping and trying to squeeze in participating in the events that make the season special, caregivers are faced with not only caring for a loved one, but trying to keep beloved traditions alive for themselves and other family members.
If you’re caring for someone with dementia, the holidays can be particularly challenging. Family traditions may no longer mean anything to your loved one and the added stress of caregiving can mean you’re simply not in a festive mood. You may feel some resentment or sadness at having to adjust your own beloved routines to accommodate your loved one’s needs.
But with a little preparation, the holidays can still be a joyous time. Here are some tips to help create a memorable holiday for both you and your loved one.
Let go of your attachment to “the way things used to be”
Accept the fact that normal traditions may need some adjusting and that you can still have a wonderful holiday. Be grateful that your loved one is still around and enjoy simply being together. Let friends and other relatives know that you may be cutting back on certain activities and that you’ll be thinking of them even if you can’t get together.
Make a plan
Determine what’s most important to you and how you can make your personal traditions part of your new reality. Identify areas where you may need some help, either from family members or outside help. Call a family meeting if necessary and determine what activities will stay, what will get cut and what new traditions to start.
Caregiving doesn’t mean you have to give up your life. If you used to enjoy entertaining and seeing friends, consider having a few close friends over to celebrate the season. Prepare visitors in advance about your loved one’s condition so they know what to expect. Let your loved one know who’s coming and provide pictures of them beforehand if possible. Consider having guests wear nametags. Finally, have a quiet space where he or she can go if the party becomes overwhelming.
Involve your loved one in holiday plans
Your loved one may still have memories of past holidays. Ask them to share their memories with you. Bring out photo albums, play holiday music and bake cookies or something else the two of you used to do together. In you’re planning a party, invite them to help with cooking or decorating. Giving them a purpose will make them feel part of what’s going on and more receptive to the event itself.
Your loved one’s diminishing cognition may make usual gifts unusable or even dangerous. Framed pictures of the two of you can ignite memories and make your loved one feel connected. Special lotions, soaps and shampoos can still be enjoyed and make the recipient feel pampered and cared for. Anything that stimulates the senses is a good gift and can include home-baked cookies and cakes. Soft, comfortable clothing that’s easy to put on and take off is also a good choice.