Coping with Holidays as a Caregiver
We all know that Holidays can be a very stressful time just in living an ordinary family life. There is much confusion with the hustle and bustle of preparing for extra company, fixing special meals and playing the hostess while trying to also enjoy the whole experience ourselves. For the caregiver this time can add a whole new set of stresses to an already stressful situation. I think that one of the most important points we should remember as role of the caregiver in this situation is to try to maintain a sense of familiarity for the one we are caring for. Confusion and unfamiliar changes often bring out the worst in all of us and that much more so in a person who has a handicap. With this in mind there are some tips which may help make the holidays a little more enjoyable for all involved.
Try to include the person to whom you are the caregiver for in some of the activities in preparing for the holidays. If there is something they are capable of helping with, then give them a small job of doing so. It makes them feel like they are being useful and at the same time will help you to occupy them while you are also accomplishing something. I remember so well having my mom peel the potatoes for me. She enjoyed doing it so much that she peeled 10 pounds before I stopped her. She was happy so I let her go! With the holidays comes decorating.... try to minimize the amount of clutter which this may add. For example: If it is The Christmas season and you feel you must add some boxes beneath the tree, place only a few directly under the tree....there's no need to spread them out so that they fill half the living room. This would only create a hazard for the one you are caring for by tripping them up or confusing them. One Christmas my mom felt the need to rearrange all of the gifts …. We are still missing a few but we learned from the experience to be selective in how we placed them. With all of the extra decorating comes the use of extra electrical cords....be sure to secure all extra cords so that they are not a hazard.... Try to run them along the outside walls where they are not so visible to the eye. Try to maintain basically the same furniture floor pattern. For someone who may be a little confused at times or has a problem moving about, moving the furniture may totally throw them off and lead to more confusion and agitation or a possible accident. Do not place poisonous plants, such as Poinsettias, out for display. A beautiful display of artificial flowers would be a safer way of making a room colorful. Try to schedule the major activities for the day early in the day. We know that as the day wears on we all tend to become tired under normal conditions. For someone who is struggling to find their place in an already confusing world, the stress and agitation increases as the day goes on. Saving a time of sitting and quietly visiting towards the end of the day would benefit all concerned. Talking of past holiday customs and recipes may be enjoyable and less tiring after a long day. Try to limit the number of guests so that the amount of confusion is lessened. Keep in mind that the more noise that is present; the more confusion will be evident. If your holiday activities are planned well in advance, each guest should also be made aware of the emotional state of the one you are caring for. You could even send them material to read giving them an overview of the specific problem if they are unaware of what it entails. Always try to make the patient feel secure and protected. With guests in and out of the house be sure that someone is aware at all times of where they are. If they tend to wander there is a chance that they may wander off while everyone thinks that everyone else is watching Aunt Mary! It may be a good idea to even assign different ones to take turns keeping him or her in sight and being on hand if they require assistance. If they become agitated or overly tired, try to remove them to a quiet area of the house either with yourself or someone they trust. As caregiver be sure to fit some time in for yourself. If you have the extra people there then use them to your advantage. Take a few minutes sometime during the day to pamper yourself! Place your sister or even your brother in charge of mom or dad or hubby and go run yourself a hot bubble bath or take a 30-minute much needed nap. Something this simple will refresh you and help you to enjoy the holidays that much more too.
9/12/99 Copyright ã 1999 Brenda RacePublished in Today's Caregiver, November/December 1999.