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Posted: November 03, 2008

Practical Caregiving

Don't Forget Yourself in Upcoming Holidays

Several years ago I had a friend who was a lot older than me. In fact, she was in her 80’s when I was in my 40’s, but we were friends. Her closest family members lived nearly three hours away, and while she missed seeing them, she had other people she considered her family, including me.

 

We did things together, and I helped her. She did her best to help me, also. She took care of my kids when I needed to do things, and she gave me recipes she thought were good. But no matter how close all of us were with her, we couldn’t replace her family.

 

At Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, her adult children and grandchildren made a special point of including her in the family dinners. They always wanted her to stay overnight, and when she felt good enough, she would. They may have had an idea of how much those holidays meant to her, but I don’t think they understood the depth of her appreciation.

 

For about a month before the holiday, she would talk about her family spending so much time and effort to include her. Afterward, she would tell us about every minute of the time she spent with her family. She would tell each of us separately. This went on for about three weeks after the holiday. Then someone would send her a card, and we would all hear about that. She loved her family very much, as most of us do.

 

Near the end of her life, it did get difficult to transport her to the family gatherings and make sure she had everything she needed. When it became apparent they couldn’t do that any longer, they visited her at various times during the week before the holiday. One person would visit on the day of the holiday for an hour or so.

 

Holidays and family are synonymous, and while you need to think about your loved one during the holidays, you also need to think about yourself. If you are constantly trying to do things for your elderly loved one, you will not be a good family caregiver. As a caregiver, you must make sure to include your own desires and needs during the busy holiday season. Plan something for yourself. Just relax and enjoy it yourself. You will be a better family caregiver.

 

What other things can you do to make the holidays a good experience for both you and your loved one?

 

First, consider their health and what will cause them the least amount of stress. If they are not transported to the festivities, will it cause them a lot of stress? If you want to take them to the house, will that cause them a lot of stress? Which one will work the best? If you don’t take them, you all could visit her where she lives. It might be better for one or two of you to visit your loved one for an hour or two, then the next day a couple other family members could visit. You could tell your loved one that you will each have a better visit this way instead of everyone trying to talk to her at once.

 

Involve your loved one by including them in planning the holiday happenings. They are still the same person they were, and want to enjoy life as much as possible. Is there anything special they did in years past -- traditions? Talk about holidays from the past -- what you did, who was there, how they are today.

 

Don’t forget to make plans that include activities where they live.

 

Go over an invitation list or card list with them. Talk about the people, what they used to do together, what they are doing now, and anything else they want to discuss or reminisce over. Try to make it a time of doing things they will feel they have done before. Confusion and unfamiliar happenings will only upset your loved one.

 

When they receive cards, or you receive cards, read them together. Keep them involved with the season.

 

Listen to holiday songs and even sing them with your loved one. This can be a very calming time for both of you.

 

Check the television schedule for holiday specials that you and your loved one will enjoy. Talk about those programs before they are broadcast. Thinking and talking about a good program that you both want to see is very enjoyable and relaxing.

 

Always make a point to tell your loved one that you love them and want to be with them at this special time of year. Tell them that being with them makes this season special for you.

 

When you consider your loved one’s desires and needs along with your own desires and needs, you will find this holiday season to be extra special and one that you both will remember.

© 2008 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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