For families whose senior loved ones struggle with afflictions, holidays can be challenging times. But, with a little planning and support, the festivities can still be special. Setting realistic expectations is a key to eliminating stress.
It may be difficult to look forward to the holidays when a beloved family member is not himself. Your holidays will be doubly challenging, but they can still be special for your family if you try to limit what you do.
Communicate concerns. In advance of the holidays, be candid with family and friends about your loved one’s condition and your concerns, and enlist their support. Use this season of giving as an opportunity to discuss sharing family responsibilities and to strive for family togetherness.
Set realistic expectations. Consider both what the individual with dementia is capable of and what you, as a caregiver, can handle given your demanding role. Then, put celebrations into manageable proportions. This can help decrease stress and head off feelings of depression that stem from unrealistic expectations, both for you and your loved one.
Adapt family gatherings. Since crowds, noise and altering routines can aggravate confusion and other behavioral problems, revising your get-togethers may be in order. For example, instead of entertaining the whole clan, limit the number of attendees at a holiday dinner or spread out several smaller gatherings on different days.
Pare down traditions. With round-the-clock caregiving, it may not be feasible to juggle all of your religious and ethnic observances. You can still keep traditions alive; just reduce their number to avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Ask your loved one which traditions to choose, since it will be another way to involve him.
Talk with the patient's physician and get an indication of how much they can do. Discuss with family members how much you think your loved one should try to do, based on the doctor’s recommendations. Remember that the patient may be feeling as if they are strong enough to do more, but that could be a dangerous risk. Let them know that what you’re doing is based on a doctor’s recommendations and in their best interests. Then stick to your plan. Even a short time together might be very special.