Compassionate Caregiving: Home for the holidays


Laura Nissen PHOTO CREDIT: Jessica Reilly


Laura Nissen PHOTO CREDIT: Jessica Reilly

Think about “home” and what that has meant to you throughout your lifetime.

Home used to be where you lived with your family of origin, with your parents and your siblings.

Then, home was defined to be college or your apartment as a young adult.

A few years later, perhaps home became where you and your life partner moved to potentially start your life together.

As the years went by, your home might have moved several times.

It occurs to me that home isn’t really a place but a feeling. Home, it seems, is a gradual evolution during a lifetime of how your mind and heart defines it. It constantly is changing, taking on one form or another.

When we plan for the holidays as caregivers, we need to think differently. We need to simplify, abbreviate, prioritize and optimize what is important in our celebration. In order to enjoy the holidays to the fullest, there is a need for us to be as creative as we can.

Check in with your loved one to discuss how they would like to celebrate. Most likely their expectations are much more simplified than we have in our heads.

A common theme I hear is that they just want to experience a good meal, good company and a few heartfelt traditions. They do not expect nor want the holiday of years past. This is important for us to honor their choice.Consider many mini-events during a longer time frame. It always is helpful to space the traditions and visits out into small groups. The smaller the group, typically the more enjoyable it is for your loved one.Think “quality over quantity.” For many seniors, it is overwhelming to be in a large group. When I was younger, I remember my parents swooping in with my grandparents when we got together for the holidays. They would stay about an hour, then be quietly extracted out just as fast. Now knowing what I know, my parents were honoring my grandparents wishes to participate but just for a short time — a mini dose of the holidays per se.Be present. Be sure to block out all distractions and just be present with your loved one this holiday. This time is sacred family time, and the more present you are for the time together, the more sacred it will be. The time you spend together doesn’t even have to be lengthy, just optimal and meaningful. A 30-minute drive through Murphy Park and a mug of hot chocolate together can be as meaningful as a whole day together.

This holiday season, I leave you with the following quote from Hamilton Wright Mabie: “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

Laura Nissen is the director of assisted living at Grand Meadows, a Luther Manor Community.

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