Compassionate Caregiving: Preparing for the holidays

One of the most frequent questions that I am asked about caregiving is, “What should we do differently for the holidays when we are caregiving?”

This is difficult because we place so much importance on tradition for the holidays. Our expectations typically are very high with the ultimate “Norman Rockwell” holiday as the goal.

I would like to suggest three areas for change for your consideration this holiday season.

First, can you simplify? You have so much responsibility with caregiving that you really need to think about quality versus quantity. Start with asking yourself, “What is the essence of what you are seeking this holiday?” Is it family time? Is it peace? Is it fun with your grandchildren? Is it about tradition? Is it about trying new traditions? Decide what it is you would like for the general theme of the holiday, then stick to it.

Second, use that general theme as your guide. What do you want to continue? What can you let go? What new things would you like to start? Perhaps big family events are no longer something that you can or want to do or perhaps they are just too complex to coordinate. Try smaller gatherings or spread your small gatherings. And maybe the traditional dinner is not something that you are interested in. Perhaps you can have an appetizer or dessert gathering instead. Be sure to consider quality over quantity.

Finally, stay in the present moment, and enjoy every minute. One of the most important things when caregiving is to enjoy your loved one’s company. Often, we become so pre-occupied with doing, doing, doing that we forget to just be. Be sure to carve out time just to enjoy each other. After all, you show your love and devotion by helping your the person you’re caring for. Share the joy of the season. As you build these memories, know that long after the caregiving is complete the memories of this time will bring you peace and joy.

My prayer for you is that your enjoy the holidays and give some reflection of how much your caregiving is contributing to your family legacy and your loved one’s quality of life.

Blessed is the caregiver. Your loved one has the peace in knowing that you are lovingly guiding them through this time. Take a moment to appreciate that your love in action is one of the most treasured gifts of the holiday season.

Laura Nissen is a dementia specialist for Luther Manor Communities in Dubuque.

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