Does the upcoming holiday season fill you with dread?
Are you wondering how you are going to survive?
The Christmas holidays are a wonderful time of year when family and friends get together. But they can also add stress to our lives. particularly when we are balancing work and family responsibilities. This is even more true if we are caring for someone who has a disease like Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. And for that individual, the holiday season can be a confusing and overwhelming time of year.
Here are seven tips to make the holiday season easier and more joy-filled:
1. Spend time with your family and share holiday traditions.
Building family memories is important at Christmas-time. You are creating a legacy of love for your family. It will impact how your children and grandchildren interact in the future. So think about creating some family traditions. Share a favourite cookie, decoration or movie. Charles’ Dickens Christmas Carol is a favourite of our family. When our children were small, we switched over to the Muppet Christmas Carol and never went back. Now that movie is a family tradition – we watch it every Christmas Eve. We put on our Christmas pajamas and settle down on Christmas Eve to watch (and sing along) to the movie. We would never miss it.
Think about Christmas traditions that can include everyone. Going to get the Christmas tree can be a great family outing. Decorating the house or creating a gingerbread house can also be a family tradition shared by everyone. Include music to stir memories – Bing Crosby’s White Christmas album is great!
2. Find a quiet spot.
Everyone enjoys quiet time to read or recuperate from the craziness that can come with the holidays. Individuals with cognitive impairments can find the noise and bustle overwhelming. Make sure there is a quiet spot for them to sit and enjoy the activity without being over-stimulated by too much noise. You can also plan simpler activities just for them. Working with them to complete Christmas cards can be a special time together. They can share stories about the individual’s who will receive the cards. As well, it will give them a sense of accomplishment.
Think about activities that your mom or dad enjoyed in the past, like baking a particular cookie or decorating the Christmas tree. With some help, they may be able to create something special to share for the holidays.
3. Christmas name tags.
A Christmas themed name tag helps an individual with memory loss to participate fully in family activities. Ask younger family members to decorate them with stickers. If everyone wears a name tag, it will reduce the stress of trying to remember names.
Another idea is to create a family tree for display during the holidays. It will help everyone to see the family connections. You can also add pictures to the family tree.
4. Recognize limitations.
Everyone has limitations and keeping them in mind will make the holiday season more enjoyable for all. If you are the primary caregiver, conserve your energy and make use of the extra hands around during this time of year. If you are coming in from out of town, think about giving your sibling (or parent) who bears the bulk of the caregiving a break. Suggest that they spend some time relaxing or going out with friends. Give them enough notice so that plans can be made.
Remember, individuals who are older may tire more easily. This should be taken into account when planning activities. Most importantly, make sure everyone gets enough sleep so they can remain cheerful and upbeat through the holidays.
5. Listen and share stories.
Everyone has a story to share and those who have lived longest have the most to draw on. Give them an opportunity to share their stories. You can prompt the story-telling by asking questions. Some good questions to start the trip down memory lane are: what is your … – best Christmas memory? funniest Christmas gift? Christmas meal gone awry? Some of the best laughs are Christmas memories of disasters. In our case it was the year the Christmas tree fell over and the dog ate the turkey. Sharing these stories builds bonds between young and old.
6. Go see the Christmas lights.
A trip out to see the Christmas lights is an outing that can be enjoyed by everyone. Prepare an itinerary of where you want to go to see the lights. Consider whether you will be getting out to walk at any point. Bring a container of hot chocolate to warm-up if you plan to get out to view the lights. Consider bringing warm blankets to wrap up in if you are getting in and out of the car.
The great thing about looking at the lights is you can control the duration of the excursion. Taking in a Christmas concert or other event may be too much activity and stimulation.
7. Have an “Attitude of Gratitude”.
We all have so much to be grateful for. Taking the time to remember and give thanks greatly increases our joy. It’s really the little things in life that can make a big difference. Enjoy the smells of cookies baking. Take time to listen to Christmas carols. Simplify the season by getting shopping done early so that you can relax and enjoy the holidays.
But most of all – be grateful and joyful this Christmas season.