How to Make the Holidays Happier for Everyone
“As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.” – Donald Westlake
Thankfulness, Love, Peace, Joy, Family, and Friends are the ingredients of a happy holiday season. Stress is not. Any undue pressure we put on ourselves to make everything perfect so that this becomes “the best holiday ever” is nothing more than a negative whirlwind of emotions that lead to unrealistic expectations, overspending, mental fatigue and physical exhaustion – or in other words, a lousy holiday. It doesn’t have to be that way for anybody – but especially for seniors and caregivers of seniors with age-related challenges. You have earned the right through years of past contributions to enjoy all the benefits of family gatherings and festivities without having to be as involved in planning and preparation as you once were.
Yet a little planning and preparation are key elements of giving yourself the best chance at having a good time; whether you are a totally independent person, totally dependent person or caregiver. In this article, we are primarily addressing the difficulties caregivers of persons with dementia face but anyone can modify these tips to suit their own circumstances. Today our care recipient is Mom, who has Alzheimer’s. Here are a few suggestions to help you and Mom have more fun this year.
Keep It Simple
Your objective is to enjoy the holiday. If you find yourself getting anxious, slow down and try to determine what it is that’s causing you to be that way. What’s bothering you? Are you upset with another family member who isn’t doing their fair share? Is Mom at odds with someone who’ll be there? Discuss it with them in private before your event.
Holiday time can bring memories of beloved relatives and friends that we’ve lost during the last year or so. Grief is something that shouldn’t be gone through alone. Share memories with someone who knew them or if you are the one caring for a person who is grieving, get them to open up and share with you – sharing the sorrow is the most loving thing you can do for another.
Are you expecting too much of yourself? Consider saying, “No” to any request for your time that doesn’t move you closer to your immediate goals. Most of us like to help others when we can, but right now it could be a distraction you can’t afford. Adding more to your plate only waters down the fun and excitement of the things you enjoy most.
You know how important it is to get plenty of rest, eat well and exercise every day. Between the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day, we are constantly tempted to ignore the disciplines we are usually diligent about. It wouldn’t be much of a holiday season without them. Moderation is the key. Don’t sacrifice everything.
Know the Terrain
It is imperative in war and caregiving that you be aware of your environment. An unfamiliar house can confuse Mom and make her more uncomfortable. You are her guide and that means you must anticipate her ability to deal with her surroundings and needs – from seating at the table to a place to rest to an alternate bathroom if the main one is busy when she needs to go. As soon as you get Mom comfortable, do your reconnaissance.
One way to get ahead of the game is to phone the host in advance to discuss:
- Special diet
- A quiet place to rest
- Other special considerations
- Who else is invited (in case of personality conflicts)
At the celebration:
- Stay calm
- Lower your expectations and keep Mom from becoming too excited
- Involve Mom in the conversation
- Make sure others understand that Mom can answer for herself
- If others are singing carols, encourage Mom to join them
- Keep Mom’s activities short
To satisfy anyone who wants to do a “deep dive” into hints and tips from the experts, here are links to a few of our favorites.
And two bonus links that are important throughout the year from Family Caregiver Alliance.
Above all else this holiday season, we hope you and your family will have fun and stay safe.