It’s that time again, “The most wonderful time of the year!” Many people gleefully anticipate the colorful lights, seasonal treats, and endless dramedies on the Hallmark Channel. It is the holiday season, and although there are many things to be joyful for, the holidays can also be a time of stress, particularly for those who provide care for a family member or friend with dementia.
Questions we ask ourselves are: Will I have time to clean the house and help mom get dressed before the guests arrive? What if my spouse doesn’t remember his nieces and nephews? Who is going to carve the turkey this year? It is tradition that grandpa always carves the turkey!
If you are a caregiver, perhaps the statements above sound familiar to you. With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is easy to focus on the "what if’s" and "to-do’s" this time of year. Luckily, there are a few things caregivers can do to reduce the stress over the holidays.
1. Reach Out
It is okay to allow yourself to ask for assistance. Ask a family member or friend to assist with providing care or sit with the person you care for while you clean the house. Delegate other holiday to-do’s. Ask a sibling to host the holiday meal or do the gift shopping.
If you are feeling emotional regarding your role as a caregiver, call a friend or speak with a professional. Utilize professional resources such as those at Age Well Arrowhead.
You do not have to do it all, and you do not have to do it alone.
Due to functional changes that can occur when a person has dementia, the environment and tasks they engage in may need to be adjusted to fit their needs and abilities. Instead of carving the turkey, maybe grandpa can be the master carving supervisor or server of the turkey. Perhaps this year you skip door to door caroling and host a small singing gathering at your home or send a caroling video to close friends and neighbors. Adjusting holiday traditions may make it easier on the person you care for. In turn, this may reduce any changes in behavior which may become troublesome for the caregiver.
Search for new opportunities amidst old traditions.
When times are busy, it is easy to get stuck on “autopilot” and fall into traps- specifically the ones in which we focus on the negatives of a situation. Stop. Take a slow deep breath and challenge yourself to identify other, more helpful ways to view the situation. For example, your spouse may not remember your nieces and nephews, but perhaps he will still enjoy their company… they are funny after all. Or maybe your house isn’t spotless… lucky at night it is hard to see the dust!
You may not always have control over the situations you are faced with; however, you can always choose to control how you think about it.
As the holiday lights go up and the cookies bake, turn on your favorite movie and take a breath. The holidays can be stressful. Fortunately, you now have the tools to help you cope. Just remind yourself to Reach out, Readjust, and Reframe.