For most of us, the holidays can be a joyful time. But for many caregivers, the holidays also bring added stress. An already busy care partner finds there’s, even more to do during the holidays. It’s OK to give yourself a bit of a break this year. Here are some tips to help you make it through the holiday season with more joy and less stress.
On the 1st day of Holiday Caregiving… Enjoy making memories.
Don’t get so involved in the plans you that forget the point of the activity or event. The experience may not be like it used to be, but you can still find the magical moments, the moments of joy. Especially for the grieving person: Holidays are difficult when you’ve lost or are losing a loved one. Be patient with yourself as you grieve and find support in comforting rituals and people. Do what’s right for you as you seek new ways to find PEACE this holiday.
On the 2nd day of Holiday Caregiving… Record the memories
Record the memories of the person with dementia by encouraging reminiscence and storytelling to preserve family history. Use pictures, foods, music, and decorations to trigger memories. Take candid photos or videos – they can be more touching and much more manageable than posed portraits.
On the 3rd day of Holiday Caregiving… Be open and flexible.
Inform family and friends of your loved one’s condition so they know what to expect. Recognize that get-togethers might need to change or be more flexible to accommodate the situation. Include younger children in the discussion – to the appropriate degree – so they better understand why a loved one may be acting differently. Social interactions are very important but also tiring: give the person many opportunities to rest between calls, virtual chats, or visits.
On the 4th day of Holiday Caregiving… Help loved ones connect.
Even if everyone knows each other, name-tags or names on virtual screens can benefit your loved one. When guests arrive, virtually or outside for visits, identify them to your loved one, explain their relationship, and perhaps share a pleasant memory. Have a photo album at the ready to create a comforting context. Keep in mind the benefits and use of these tips may vary based on where your loved one is on their journey with dementia. Adapt according to their needs and abilities. And instead of “talking visits,” try “doing visits,” where a task is the center of focus, such as singing, reading a familiar story, looking at photos of long-ago familiar places, or enjoying a treat.
On the 5th day of Holiday Caregiving… Do less and appreciate more.
Set manageable expectations for yourself. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do – as well as what you want to do and don’t want to do. Try not to set yourself up for disappointment by comparing this year’s holiday season with the nostalgia of past holidays. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Embrace the changes this year to do less and appreciate more. Focus on what you enjoy most about the holiday and adapt it as needed. Ask others for help to reduce your stress even more.
On the 6th day of Holiday Caregiving… Maintain your social life.
Explore virtual or safe in-person social interactions with friends and other family members. Isolation can further increase feelings of stress. Having the chance to laugh, have fun, and focus on something other than your caregiving responsibilities can help you keep the pressure at bay and maintain emotional balance. Also, seek emotional and moral support from other caregivers – there is great strength in knowing you are not alone.
On the 7th day of Holiday Caregiving… Ask for and accept help.
It’s so often the case that, while people want to be helpful, they may not always know what to do. Let other family members and friends know what they can do to share in the responsibility of caregiving. Don’t forget to consider asking people who live at a distance and neighbors and people from faith-based groups or clubs to pitch in and help. Shopping, running errands, decorating the outside of the house, or calling your loved one to give you some downtime are all ideas. Try to find time to do something you especially enjoy, such as reading, walking, listening to music, or even participating in a support group.
On the 8th day of Holiday Caregiving… Unlock past memories.
Plan holiday-related activities in which your loved one can participate, and that may help trigger good memories. Was Mom “Queen of the Cookies” in her prime? Invite her to help cut and decorate cookies. Or peel potatoes for latkes, whatever her specialty was. Other activities that can stir up happy memories and appeal to family members of all ages include listening to music, looking through photo albums, and creating handmade personal gifts.
On the 9th day of Holiday Caregiving… Bring the party with you.
Families with loved ones in long-term care residences coordinate social calls to help ensure short but frequent “visits” through cards, pictures, videos, virtual chats, and meetings (when possible). Ask whether talented family members, a grandchild who sings, for example, can spread holiday cheer via a virtual platform or an outside performance. Take traditional goodies and drop them off, if allowed, with cards, pictures, and stories of memories about the goodies or holiday attached.
On the 10th Day of Holiday Caregiving… Celebrate in small doses.
Celebrate in small doses spread out over time. Since changes in routine, noise, and lots of stimulation can increase confusion and upset individuals with dementia, opt for smaller, shorter, “safe” gatherings. These “small dose” parties can extend the celebration, offering more opportunities for socialization. Focus on quality over quantity, keeping things short and simple.
On the 11th day of Holiday Caregiving… Downsize the decorating.
While a festive home is often one of the most anticipated elements of the holidays, too many decorations can increase confusion and safety issues. Limit the number of decorations. Consider an artificial tree, lights on timers, and electric or battery-operated candles to avoid fire hazards. Keep walkways free of clutter to reduce the risk of falls. View events through the eyes of the person living with dementia. Changes in routine and environment can be difficult and confusing.
On the 12th Day of Holiday Caregiving… Accept the gift of support.
Enlist a friend or family member to keep your loved one company so you can simply breathe, tackle that gift list, prep a holiday meal, or grab a cup of coffee to savor the season with a flavored latte. Joining a support group can be helpful, especially this time of year, to share feelings and stories with others who understand what you’re going through. Many groups are meeting in-person and online.