The holidays are a wonderful yet stressful time of year. I really experienced it in 2008 when my father suffered from a stroke. He had 3 brain surgeries, with a hospital and rehabilitation stay for 7 weeks. By the time we were able to bring him home Thanksgiving was quickly approaching.
To add to the stress, I was divorced with two children ages 19 and 15. Change was happening whether or not I liked it. I wish I knew that it was perfectly fine to make changes to our holiday traditions, and the expectations that go with the holidays. The important thing was that we were together as a family and able to celebrate with my dad and I am so grateful.
As a caregiver, if you are afraid of change now is the time to get over it. That sounds harsh but surviving, actually thriving, as a caregiver to an aging loved one depends on your being able to be flexible and to ask for help.
There are so many expectations this time of year that WE put on OURSELVES. I have found that more often than not, it is our own expectations that get in our way. Over time I have reduced my perfectionist tendencies. (although they still come up from time to time). For this holiday season, give it a try, let go, change it up. Here are some tips on making the holiday season easier:
- What is most important? Make a list of priorities and check in with your partner and loved ones to see what is most important to them but also make note of what you and they can let go of this year.
- Plan Ahead – Be organized with your shopping by making a list for gifts ahead of time and then shop with location in mind to be more efficient. Keep your menu simple. Don’t cook foods that require a lot of ingredients or time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Caregiving is not something you can do alone and family, friends, and neighbors will appreciate that they can be of service. While they may not want to do direct caregiving they can help with putting up the tree, the lights, cooking, or shopping.
- Take Time for Yourself – It is important to set aside a bit of time each day to do something for yourself whether it is sipping on hot chocolate, reading a book, watching a favorite movie, or taking a walk.
- Start New Traditions – It is okay to make changes to your holiday traditions. As an example, last year my family celebrated Thanksgiving with a brunch instead of a turkey dinner. My now, adult children go to their dad’s as well for Thanksgiving. By having brunch they eat turkey once that day and it was a much less stressful cooking day for me. J
- Involve your aging family member – Keep them actively involved in the festivities but take into account if they suffer from dementia. If they do, make sure you have a quiet room for them to go to if there is too much noise and activity. Consider brunch or lunch on Christmas day to avoid the evening possibility of Sundowning when they may feel more anxious or agitated.