Compassionate Caregiving: Give experiences for a meaningful holiday season

Scottish shortbread. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Laura Nissen. PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

The pressure is starting to build: What can we gift for the holidays that is special for the people we love?

Rather than have that feeling crescendo to a paralyzing state of panic I have a new way to think about this conundrum.

This year, consider designing an experience for your loved one. It builds special memories and allows your love one to take in a moment with all their senses.

It doesn’t need to be an experience that takes all day. It doesn’t need to be expensive. It just needs to be an experience that is meaningful to your loved one. It all starts with the question, “What is my loved one passionate about?”

If the person you love enjoys classical music, find the nearest venue and make an evening of it. The sights and sounds of the evening will last forever in a memory. Take lots of pictures to remind you of the magical evening.

If your loved one enjoys cheese, build a cheeseboard and have a cheese-tasting event with a few friends and family. This, too, will be a lasting memory where your loved one will have a multisensory experience.

If your spouse loves Scottish shortbread, learn about the history of shortbread, bake cookies together, and share them with friends and neighbors.

Some additional ideas:

For the animal lover: Visit a zoo, aquarium or wildlife rescue center.

For the artist: Find a local painting class.

For the nature lover: Make a terrarium together or go on a hike.

For the music lover: Gift music lessons or plan a local music lover’s night.

For the adventurer: Buy tickets to their favorite adventure.

For the cook: Buy a cooking class and join them.

For the sports lover: Take them to a local game.

It starts with a piece of paper, marked with three columns. List the people you want to gift to this holiday season. Then, list three or four of their passions. Next, brainstorm an experience that suits that person’s capabilities and energy level. Finally, build the experience to include sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Be sure to document the experience with pictures. A lasting touch would be to take your favorite picture, frame it and gift the photo of the adventure to your loved one.

I leave you with this quote from Maya Angelo that says it all: ”I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Laura Nissen is an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer who advocates for those with memory disorders. She works with families to help them learn the skills of caregiving. She also serves as a community educator, caregiver support group leader and Memory Café leader for the Alzheimer’s Association.

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