As an adult child, it can come as a surprise that your parent is getting older, and they are less able to do the things they used to. This may become even more apparent during the holiday season. If you are their caregiver, it can be a mine field trying to maintain the traditions of the past while coping with the reality of the present, especially if you’re taking care of a loved one with dementia. My recommendations are: 1) to change your expectations, 2) consider making a few modifications, and 3) create ‘new’ traditions – ways of celebrating the holiday season that are meaningful but simple. For example, put up a wreath, buy a smaller Christmas tree, put out fewer decorations, buy battery operated candles that you can place throughout the house. Things may no longer be as they always were. Your traditional expectations of having Mom decorate the house, buy gifts, bake cookies, and host the family dinner may need to change. You can make modifications and still enjoy the festivities of the holiday season. Focus on what your parent CAN do and include them in activities at a level they can do them. This may involve doing things such as pouring chocolate chips in the cookie batter and mixing the batter, or putting stamps on holiday cards, or taping the corners down when you’re wrapping gifts. Or, perhaps another family member can start hosting the dinner, and you and your parent(s) are the honored guests.
Dementia Caregiver Tips for the Holidays
This holiday season give yourself permission to take A.C.T.I.O.N.©
(A) Accept that your holidays are going to be different. But different doesn’t mean it has to be bad. ‘Different’ gives you an opportunity to make changes that give you a sense of joy and happiness. It’s an opportunity to create new holiday rituals and activities that are meaningful.
(C) Connect with others. Call or write cards to family and friends. Connect with someone you may have lost touch with. Volunteer. Schedule visits. Leave a message or send a note that says “I’m thinking of you,” “I miss you,” or “I love you.”
(T) Time Out. Take a daily holiday 10-minute time out for yourself and do at least one thing a day that is festive or fun. Ask yourself daily: What can I do today for 10 minutes that would be festive, fun or joyful?
(I) Identify the joys of the season – what activities bring you joy? Focus on what you CAN do to make this a meaningful and joyful holiday season. CAN you and your parent(s) listen to holiday music, sing holiday songs out loud, drive around to look at holiday decorations, bake, wrap gifts, watch holiday movies, build a gingerbread house, or decorate cards together? Embrace the “CAN DO’s” this holiday season that bring you and your loved one joy and happiness.
(O) Be Optimistic. Modify your expectations, simplify holiday traditions, include your loved one in holiday preparations, maintain a consistent holiday routine, ask for help.
(N) Negativity. Reduce exposure to negativity. Some ways to do this are: set boundaries, limit the time you spend with people who are judgmental or unhelpful, say “NO” if it’s more work for you, receive and accept compliments, expressions of love, gratitude and friendship.
As you implement these dementia caregiver tips and take A.C.T.I.O.N., have a safe, happy and joyous holiday season.
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