The holidays, for Alzheimer’s caregivers, are filled with a myriad of emotions. Hope and gratitude that another year has passed and our loved one is still with us. We have Fear and anxiety regarding the future, and a strange mixture of joy and sadness for the present. We look into our loved one’s eyes and realize that mom’s body is there, but SHE is long gone. We remember the good times when dad used to climb into the attic or descend the basement stairs to get the holiday accouterments. Grandma and pops used to host the Christmas Eve dinner and now he doesn’t even know that it’s Christmas.
On some levels it’s a bit challenging. On other levels, it feels impossible. How can we possibly balance the festivities of the holidays with the uncertainty of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease?
Today, I’ll give you a few suggestions as to how you and your family can enjoy the holidays, while caregiving. This post will specifically address how to include your loved one in as many activities as possible and practical.
- Think smaller instead of larger – Instead of having a huge, sell-out crowd over, consider having a smaller group
- Think participation – Allow your loved one to help and participate. From setting the table, to folding napkins, to knitting or even helping with the decorations; anything your loved one can do to feel loved, appreciated and helpful will bring more joy than the most well thought out gift. I used to ask my mom to fold laundry. Although it wasn’t a holiday-specfic task, she felt needed (and it kept her occupied and out of trouble, at least for a little while).
- Think personal – Take your loved one out for a nice dinner or prepare an intimate dinner. Enjoy a special worship service or other activity together.
- Think help – If you do plan to host a big holiday dinner. Get a family member, friend or even a paid caregiver to help out with your loved one. Having one person who is dedicated to making sure your loved one is taken care of makes a world of difference. A few years ago, my husband and I hosted the family Thanksgiving dinner. There were about 50 guests. My brother designated himself the caregiver for the day and stuck close to mom for the entire day. It took a major load off of me and helped to keep her grounded.
- Think Consistency – As much as possible, keep your loved one’s routine in tact. Major changes in schedule can cause problems in the present and for days or weeks long after the company is gone.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, breathe. Take time to enjoy your family, your loved one and this special time of year.