Coping with Holidays as a Caregiver
By Brenda Race

We all know that Holidays can be a very stressful time just in living an ordinary family life. There is much confusion with the hustle and bustle of preparing for extra company, fixing special meals and playing the host while trying to also enjoy the whole experience ourselves. For the caregiver, this time can add a whole new set of stresses to an already stressful situation.

I think that one of the most important points we should remember as role of the caregiver in this situation is to try to maintain a sense of familiarity for the one we are caring for. Confusion and unfamiliar changes often bring out the worst in us. Imagine then, what it can do to someone with memory problems, physical impairment, or other handicap. With this in mind, there are some tips, which may help make the holidays a little, more enjoyable for all involved.

Try to include your loved one in some holiday preparations. Focus on their remaining strengths, and let them use their own capabilities to help with small tasks. It makes them feel that they are being useful while at the same time help to occupy them while you are also able to get on with other preparations. I remember so well having my mom peel the potatoes for me. She enjoyed doing it so much that she peeled 10 pounds before I stopped her. She was happy so I let her go!

With the holidays comes decorating. Try to minimize the amount of clutter that this may add.

Whatever the holiday you are celebrating, gift giving is an inevitable part of most of the festivities. You might want to consider placing only a few gifts out directly. There is no need to spread them out so that they fill half the living room. This would only create a hazard to the one you are caring for by tripping them up or confusing them. One year my mom felt the need to rearrange all of the gifts; we are still missing a few but we learned from the experience to be selective in how we placed them.

With all of the extra decorating comes the use of additional electrical cords.... Be sure to secure all extra cords so that they are not a hazard. Try to run them along the outside walls where they are not so visible to the eye. Another good idea is to try to maintain the same furniture floor pattern. For someone who may be a little confused at times, moving the furniture around may totally throw them off and lead to more confusion and agitation. Remember also to consider the live plants you may want to use in your decorating schemes; be sure to avoid placing poisonous plants out for display. A beautiful display of artificial flowers would be a safer way of making a room colorful.

Try to schedule the major activities for the day early in the day. We know that as the day wears on we all tend to become tired under normal conditions. For someone who is struggling to find their place in an already confusing world, the stress and agitation increases as the day goes on. Saving a time of sitting and quietly visiting towards the end of the day would benefit all concerned. Talking of past holiday customs and recipes may be enjoyable for your loved one, if they have long term memory recall.

Try to limit the number of guests so that the amount of confusion is lessened. Keep in mind that the more noise that is present; the more confusion will be evident. If your holiday activities are planned well in advance, each guest should also be made aware of the emotional state of the one you are caring for. You could even send them material to read giving them an overview of the disease if they are unaware of what it entails. This would also be an excellent opportunity to prepare friends and family for the changes they might see in your loved one, especially if they have not been to visit in some time.

Most importantly, always try to make your loved one feel secure and protected. As much as possible keep your loved one on their regular routine. We all know that just a slight change in routine can cause increased confusion and stress to every one concerned. Your holiday plans will flow a lot smoother if every one is aware of your loved ones needs and limitations. With guests in and out of the house, be sure that someone is aware at all times of where they are. If they tend to wander there is a chance that they may wander off while everyone thinks that everyone else is watching Aunt Mary! It may be a good idea to even assign different ones to take turns keeping him or her in sight. And if your loved one becomes agitated, try to remove them to a quiet area of the house either with yourself or someone they trust. Your loved one could be trying to tell you that they need a break from the activities.

Finally, be sure to fit some time in for yourself this holiday season. If you have the extra people there, then use them to your advantage. Take a few minutes sometime during the day to pamper yourself! Remember this is your holiday too, and do not be afraid to let family know that a little quiet time for yourself could be a gift beyond measure. Place your sister or brother in charge of mom or dad or hubby and go run yourself a hot bubble bath or take a 30-minute much needed nap. Something this simple will refresh you and help you to enjoy the holidays that much more too.


 

 

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