November 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
This time of the year, the holidays can be overwhelming. There are holiday parties, decorating, shopping and meal preparations to be made. Moreover, there are mom and dad with Alzheimer’s or dementia and you are the primary caregiver. Your brother and sister cannot believe you want to put mom and dad into a home. Arguments ensue. Mom and dad keep following you around the house turning off the decorations you just turned on. Your spouse is working late and your teenager is having a meltdown over a breakup and you—you are just trying not to have a nervous breakdown. You are human and you cannot take anymore. Something has to give, right?
Right. This time of the year, caregivers really forget about their own physical and mental health needs. Care giving is akin to any other chronic stress experience. Your body will be affected by physical and psychological strain over long periods and can often be accompanied by unpredictability and uncontrollability. This stress will have secondary effects on the other relationships in your life such as work, family and it will directly affect the person you care for.
For you, this high level of stress can lead to chronic illness, psychological distress, impaired health habits and possibly death. For the person receiving care, you can directly affect their behavior problems, their cognitive abilities, their functional abilities and their physical and mental health. In order for you and your loved one to remain healthy and happy this holiday season, remember, you need to care for yourself. The following tips may make the holidays a little easier when you are feeling overwhelmed:
- Eliminate the battleground. If holiday meals are a time for squabbles regarding a loved one’s physical or mental health, the care you are giving or the money you are spending, have a phone conference or a meeting with your relatives beforehand. Make sure relatives have a realistic idea of what to expect. Never talk about the disabled person’s disability or illness in front of him or her.
- Keep your own doctor appointments or make time for a massage. Do something nice for yourself.
- Get plenty of rest and stress reducing exercise.
- Eat healthy, including snacks when you need them.
- If you just do not have the time to make a large meal, consider a brunch or have the meal catered.
- Enlist the help of family or friends. Never be afraid to ask for help! It is one of the most generous things you can do for yourself and your loved one.
- Enlist the help of a respite care service. Many of them have adult day programs or someone that can come to your home while you run your errands. Respite service will give you a chance to prepare a meal, get shopping or housework done. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in particular tend to enjoy holiday festivities. They enjoy decorating cookies, singing carols and even visiting with Santa. It helps them remember traditions and holidays from the past.
- When you are with your loved one, try to include him or her in what you are doing. They may not be able to make cookies or go shopping, but they may be able to decorate and wrap.
- Involve as many people as you can that are important to your loved one, but keep everything as simple as you can. Because your time and their declining health, some holiday traditions may need to be modified or discontinued. You can always create a new tradition.
- Most importantly, make your loved one feel special. If they are wrapping a gift or following you around re-arranging your decorations, tell them they are doing a great job. You will have them beaming from ear to ear.
Please keep in mind this holiday season those you love and those that are less fortunate. A sincere message of love can be understood by anyone – even if they lack the capacity to reciprocate.
If you have any questions, please contact Legacy Law Firm, LLC. The firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning. The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.