November 17th, 2021
When we think of the holidays, we often think of family traditions, special foods and family visits—all the things that make a holiday special. Unfortunately for family caregivers (those who are caring for an aging or chronically ill loved one), many of the things that make the holidays a special time can also make them challenging. Here are a few tips to make sure the holidays are fun, manageable and special for both you and your loved one.
Be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t accomplish. Perhaps gift lists, guest lists, or the number of events you absolutely must attend can be scaled down. As a caregiver, your time and energy (and safety during Covid) is at a premium. Prioritize. Decide what’s really important to you and your family and what’s just holiday window dressing. Make a list and stick to it. Be honest with other family members about what you can and can’t do.
Big crowds can sometimes be agitating for people with dementia and may even be a trigger for challenging, inappropriate or aggressive behaviors. If possible, choose a smaller gathering. If a big celebration is what your family usually does, you may want to forgo it and instead ask select family members to stop by before or after for a small-scale celebration with your loved one.
If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and you’re attending a gathering, make sure you have a quiet spot you and your loved one can retreat to if they begin to feel overwhelmed or agitated. If you are planning on celebrating at someone else’s home, you may want to ask your host if they have a quiet spot your loved one can use if they need to. It’s best to do this either in advance or as soon as you arrive, so you won’t have to seek out your host or hostess in a moment of crisis.
If your holiday schedule includes visiting relatives or celebrating somewhere other than your own home, be sure you’re prepared. If your loved one has a restricted diet or may have trouble eating holiday offerings, you may want make to bring some more appropriate food with you. Having a change of clothes on hand for your loved one and appropriate hygiene supplies can also do a lot to bring down the stress level if a problem arises.
The holidays are about celebrating. There’s no right way to do it. Don’t forget about your own needs, and make sure you carve out some time for yourself.
Don’t forget our Information and Assistance Resource Center is available by phone Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You can reach them at (800) 852-7795. You can also visit our Caregiver Resources page for information on programs that can help like Caregiver Coaching or our Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshops.