December. The month carries with it a host of emotions. For some it brings to mind cozy family gatherings, stirring up nostalgia of past family holidays. But sometimes a feeling of sadness can sneak up on us this time of year. This can be magnified if you are a caregiver of someone with chronic illness, such as Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. When the fatigue and demands of caregiving collide with pressure to “do” the holidays, it can be difficult to find joy and peace. Even a simple family tradition can feel overwhelming. It would be easier to just put all of the old traditions on a shelf. But if you are in the season of caregiving, it is possible to create ways to embrace this time of year alongside your loved one.
Keep it simple. Throw expectations and comparisons of past holidays out the window. Precious moments are possible if we are willing to think outside the box. Start by thinking about what brought you and your loved one joy during the holidays in the past? Using this as a starting point, we can create a new version of this tradition so it works for your family today. Cuddling under a blanket and playing holiday music is perfect, but here are a few more things that may spark some fun ideas. Each family has unique interests, and there is no pressure to do any of them. It is all about what is right for you.
If your loved one always enjoyed:
Putting candles in every window of the house.
Baking cookies by the dozens.
Listening or singing in the choir at church.
Hosting grandchildren for dinner.
Decorating the house with colorful lights.
Buy LED candles to set a beautiful holiday mood without the risk of fire.
Measure ingredients ahead of time and let your loved one pour, mix, and roll free-form shapes. Tactile activities are relaxing.
Find a daytime service, attend choir or synagogue practices at the best time of day for your loved one. Listening to a children’s choir would be magical.
Invite a few family members at a time for brief visits, play favorite holiday music and look through old photo albums.
Pack water and snacks, head to the car and drive around town looking at the beautifully lit homes while you play old holiday favorites on the radio.
Our number one tip to embrace this season, and this season of caregiving? Throw away your expectations, keep it simple, and enjoy being together.