The Holiday Dilemma
November is National Family Caregiver Month. It seems an appropriate time since it is the start of the holiday season. We begin gathering with family over Thanksgiving and continue straight through to the new year. This time with family can be loving, thoughtful, and create lasting memories. If you are a family caregiver, it can be overwhelming, stressful, and leave you with feelings of guilt and animosity. Add the fact that 2020 is unlike any other, it raises many questions. Is it safe to gather? Can I travel to see Mom? Where is the pumpkin for my pie? How can family caregivers thrive during this season?
What to do…
Within my own family and client’s families, I see it, and I feel it. To all the family caregivers out there, stop. Breathe. You are doing the best that you can. You run between parents and children, work and home, desperately looking for “balance.” Some days are fantastic while others you want to forget. I would like to offer you a little advice, gleaned from my own battle with trying to be everything to everyone, as well as lessons learned from our clients and families.
- Keep familiar traditions. There is comfort in their familiarity. Do NOT keep them all. Put only the most prized decorations out. Make the meal with two favorite sides rather than four. If no one really eats the bean casserole, why make it? Simplicity really is bliss.
- Ask for help. Don’t assume family members know where to step in, or how. Often, they don’t want to step on toes or feel like they are imposing, especially if the senior is living with a family member. When my aunt lived in independent living, we would think nothing of popping by. Now that she lives with her son, we do not swing by unannounced. Does it need to be planned?
- Start a new tradition. Maybe having a huge intergenerational gathering inside isn’t a good idea yet. How about a shorter, smaller, outdoor event? Can’t visit? Maybe a Thanksgiving mail-a-thon for your senior, family all sending gratitude?
- Take care of yourself. The biggest gift you can give your family is you. But if you are always tired and grouchy, are they getting what they deserve? Make and keep appointments for the doctor, dentist, and hairdresser. Get out socially on a weekly basis, even if just for coffee. As the saying goes, you can not pour from an empty cup. Taking a little time away may be counterintuitive but it will make the time you spend with family meaningful.
Asking for Help is not Weakness
When working with families with dementia, we advise a team approach. It really does take a village. Get help from family and friends. Hire a caregiver through a licensed company. Have a back up plan. Join a support group. Do not try to do it all by yourself. You will end up hurting yourself. Then who takes care of your loved one?
To all the family caregivers in Brevard, we see you, and we appreciate you. This month, please take some time for yourselves. And no matter what they say about the bean casserole, you are the best!