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7 Best Ways for Caregivers to Have a Happy Holiday
Frank Blood

7 Best Ways for Caregivers to Have a Happy Holiday

Caregivers with years of experience know what it takes to get ready for the holidays so they can join in on festivities the same as everyone else. First-timers, however, will learn that this time of the year has a way of putting extra pressure on them emotionally and financially so that it becomes only more difficult to feel peaceful or have good will towards others.

There are numerous situations present at work and with other family members that can trap an unprepared carer and send him spiraling down into a pit of frustration and anger; feeling overwhelmed and physically drained. Newbies will also find that holidays tend to be when family get-togethers include most or all of the siblings, which can be a special problem in itself if everyone feels free to express their opinions on how best to care for mom or dad. Yes, it can be difficult for them to “get in the holiday spirit” but it’s certainly not impossible.

Here we’ve assembled holiday guides and tip sheets from seven experts, which cover everything from entertaining at home to traveling out of town, on the best ways to help everyone plan and enjoy the season. Some have been available for several years but are still the tried-and-true lists. Since caring for a person with dementia presents the most difficult problems to solve when getting together with others we’ve included a number from Alzheimer’s Disease sites: because their suggestions not only work for the other types of dementias as well but are easily understood for anyone concerned with preserving their loved-one’s dignity; no matter what the mental or emotional challenge. A little preparation makes all the difference.

 

You must take care of yourself first

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center offers this Holiday Hints list as a downloadable pdf. The two-page sheet covers ways to prepare yourself, your guests, and the person you take care of. The tips are brief and there are links to more information about caregiving for someone with this disease.

The “Caregiving and the holidays: from stress to success!” article from the Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving gives practical tips for getting yourself and others ready for the event. One particularly important piece of advice we all should keep in mind is since our objective is to enjoy the holiday, if we expect to be with someone who isn’t doing their fair share, we should consider “clearing the air” before the event or making a decision to hold off until afterward. This is something almost all of us have been through and the worst thing we can do is to watch them have a wonderful time while we bite our tongue or lash out in front of others. You might also be interested in their “Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers” article which goes into detail and provides 8 Tools for things such as reducing stress, goal setting, communicating well, and problem solving. It’s well worth the read-time for both new and experienced caregivers.

“Traveling with Dementia” by the Alzheimer’s Association is a brief guide for those things we need to do before we leave with our loved-one; either for short distances or longer travel including by air. Their tips include items such as which documents to take with us and reminders of how confusing and distracting airports can be. Don’t miss the “Travel Safety” PDF in the Top Resources section at the end of the article for more comprehensive information.

Even if you’re running a little short on time, you’ll want to check out the “Caregivers Guide for Managing the Holidays” by the Caregiver Alliance at Central Boston Elder Services which is a wonderful compilation of information and helpful content put together by professionals and family caregivers. It’s an easy-read with a lot of good tips for making the most of the holidays, or other days as well; and even includes ideas on the types of gifts you might suggest if others ask what you would like.

Even though much of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s “Caregiving Tips: Holidays” is covered by some of the other sites we’ve listed, it is still worth looking through because of a few different explanations; which might stimulate ideas that you hadn’t thought of.

Another page to visit on the Alzheimer’s Association site is “Help for the Holidays” which provides a great list of gifts for people with dementia separated into those in the early stages and those in the middle stages. Also, gift ideas for caregivers. Don’t miss downloading their “Keeping the ‘Happy’ in the Holidays” guide and “A Caregiver’s Guide for the Holidays” for tips and more comprehensive information.

If you have a more serious issue with siblings, here’s another article from the Family Caregiver Alliance you may be want to look at. “Caregiving with Your Siblings" goes into more depth and provides valuable Recommended Readings at the end of the page.

 

Allow plenty of time and relax

It doesn’t matter if you entertain in your home or visit family and friends in theirs, you will still need to allow time to prepare yourself, your loved-one, and those who will be there with you. Remember that the person you are caring for relies on you for some or all of their needs and to provide for their comfort. They have a right to make decisions for themselves about whom they will see and under what circumstances as long as they are mentally and emotionally able to understand what the consequences might be. There will probably be a good deal of give and take between both of you.

When you are with others, keep in mind that the object is for both of you to get the most enjoyment out of the gathering as possible and if you’re out, to get back home safely; with a minimum of unpleasant interruptions. Everything else is unimportant. Count your blessings and little things or people with small minds won’t bother you.

This is the season for hope for the future; may yours be filled with peace and joy. Merry Christmas.

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