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Posts Tagged holidays

Family Caregiver Burnout During the Holidays

Tuesday , December 24 , 2019

Family Caregiver Burnout During the Holidays

How does that old Christmas song go? It’s the most hectic time of the year?

No?

Well, we think that maybe that’s the way it should go!

The holidays can be stressful under the best of circumstances. There are gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, a tree to decorate. Most people feel frazzled this time of year.

For family caregivers, the stress can be overwhelming.

In addition to the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the regular day-to-day obligations of work and family, they also have the added pressure of tending to a loved one who can’t properly care for themselves.

According to a survey by AARP, 7 in 10 family caregivers say it is emotionally stressful to care for loved ones during the holiday season. Still, many of them feel positive about the holidays: It feels good to be useful and it’s rewarding to care for those you love.

If you are a caregiver and you’d like to minimize holiday burnout (and maximize holiday joy!), we have a few suggestions that can help. Keep reading to learn how to relax more and stress less during this hectic season:

Go in (Mentally) Prepared

Now that you’re a family caregiver, don’t expect the holidays to be the same as they were in the past. As your older loved ones continue to age, traditions and celebrations will likely need to change.

This doesn’t have to be a disappointment.

It may be true that your mother can no longer cook the Christmas ham, or your dear uncle can no longer take part in the annual gift exchange – but accepting these changes is in the best interest of both you (the caregiver) and your loved one.

Fighting the inevitable and trying to force issues just for the sake of “tradition” can add more stress for everyone involved. Instead, why not create new rituals that work well for everyone involved?

Be Aware of Limitations

There can be a fine line between “fun” and “stressful” – and although caregiver burnout can occur at any time of year, it’s particularly common during the holidays.

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and other holidays are usually a time to celebrate with family, but for those caring for an older loved one, celebrations are often just one more responsibility on their already overflowing plate.

Unfortunately, a caregiver is a person who just never seems to get a break – and the holidays are no different. In fact, the added commitments of the holiday season can make those times even more stressful than normal (even though they’re supposed to be “happy” days).

The end result? Overwork, depression, and guilt can lead to a caregiver’s breakdown.

As a caregiver, it is important to remember to create small moments of “me time,” no matter how busy you become. While that may seem like an impossible task, there are ways to make yourself a priority (even if you only have minutes a day).

Know How to Identify Stressors

Fact: Not every person is stressed out by the same things. For some people, it might be crowds or loud noises. For others, it might be having too many things on their to-do list and not enough time.

Being aware of what makes you go over the proverbial edge can help you avoid those situations altogether.

Think about the things that you do during your day and how acting as a caregiver adds stress. What sets you off?

Is it:

  • Worrying that your older loved one’s needs aren’t being met?
  • Feeling concerned that you aren’t meeting the needs of your spouse and children?
  • Agonizing that you are neglecting your duties at your day job?
  • Feeling like you can’t get everything done?
  • Not having enough time to yourself?

Once you know what your triggers are, you can start looking for solutions.

Ask for Help

You took on the responsibility of caring for a loved one, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your responsibility alone.

As a primary caregiver, you may feel like you can’t ask others for help: Maybe you don’t want to be a burden yourself or you don’t want to appear irresponsible. But other family members and friends are often happy to help if given the opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones when you need a break – even those that live out-of-town.

During the holidays, it is likely that relatives will be in town to visit. These are people who likely haven’t seen their older family member in months (or more) and might be eager to have some alone time.

Use that as an opportunity to head out and spend some time on you, whether it’s just a quick trip to pick up some takeout or an appointment for a long-overdue haircut.

Adjust Holiday Celebrations

The best thing you can do to avoid holiday burnout? Know that you can’t do it all.

This may mean making changes to your normal holiday routine, but that’s ok. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tweak holiday meals: Cooking a holiday feast can be a time-consuming process. Don’t be afraid to buy pre-made meals from a local supermarket or restaurant. In the end, it’s not the food that matters – it’s spending time with family.
  • Don’t stress about decorations: Don’t have time to put up Christmas lights this year? Trust us: No one will even notice. Put out the decorations that are personally meaningful and leave the rest for another time.
  • Be flexible with shopping: Take advantage of Amazon and other online retailers to shop stress-free at your own convenience – there’s no need to find the time to actually browse the shelves at a crowded shopping mall.
  • Ask loved ones to come to you: The holidays are often filled with endless running around from one celebration to the next. This year, ask friends and loved ones to come to you to help limit your stress.
  • Take a break: It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy. Don’t forget to take some downtime when you need it and let people know if you’re not up to a visit or a party. They WILL understand.

Posted in: Caregivers

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Celebrating the Holidays When Your Loved One Has Dementia

Monday , December 16 , 2019

Celebrating the Holidays When Your Loved One Has Dementia

For many people, the holidays are a joyful time to celebrate with friends and loved ones.

But no matter how much you love the holiday season it can be stressful – even under the best of circumstances. There is the pressure to buy perfect, thoughtful gifts. Planning a holiday meal. Remembering to mail out the cards on time. Keeping the house clean enough for guests.

Add in a family member with dementia, and the stress factor can multiply by a million – for both you and them.

The key, then, to successfully celebrating the holidays with a dementia patient starts with careful planning and ends with thoughtfulness and understanding.

This is what you can do to ensure a pleasant time for all:

Adjust Expectation

Fact: If you have a loved one who suffers from dementia, the holidays are not going to be the same anymore. Period.

Dementia can make it difficult to handle many seemingly easy tasks. For instance, even though grandma used to make an entire dinner from scratch every year, she may now have trouble just microwaving a bag of popcorn. Grandpa may have loved romping around with the grandkids in the past, but now the noise and activity leave him agitated.

It’s important for everyone involved in the celebration to have realistic expectations about what your older loved one can and cannot do. That might mean adjustments to the size of the gathering, the times you meet, and even the food served.

Keep Things Small

Large crowds, loud noises, and increased activity are all things that can create anxiety for a person with dementia.

If you are hosting a gathering that will include a person with dementia: This will not only help limit stress for your loved one, but will allow them the opportunity to spend more quality one-on-one time with everyone there.

Remember: Be aware of what is going on. If your loved one with Alzheimer’s seems to be getting tired or upset, suggest that they lay down for a bit or find another way to remove them from the hubbub.

Prepare Loved Ones

Your guests will certainly arrive at your celebration with the best of intentions: Obviously, no one is looking to upset old Uncle Harry.

Still, it’s important to let guests know exactly what to expect before they arrive. Many times, especially if the dementia patient doesn’t display many obvious outward symptoms, others don’t realize how serious the condition is, or that they may need to adjust their own behavior.

Here are a few tips that might be helpful to share:

  • Remember to speak slowly and in a calm voice
  • Don’t interrupt or correct, and give the person suffering from dementia time to finish their thoughts
  • Don’t discuss the dementia patient in front of them — even if they don’t understand what is being said, they’ll likely know that you’re talking about them
  • If the person has been suffering from dementia for an extended time, there may be serious changes in cognitive ability since the last time your friends or loved ones have seen them – make sure visitors understand those changes in advance
  • Make sure that guests understand that their loved one’s behavior may be erratic

Suggest Appropriate Gifts

People often like to exchange gifts with their friends and loved ones during the holidays. Those who suffer from dementia may still enjoy the tradition, but with some modifications:

  • Common holiday gifts, such as alcoholic beverages or candy, may no longer be appropriate. Make sure guests are prepared by providing them with a list of gift suggestions that are both enjoyable and safe – A fluffy bathrobe and slippers, favorite music and movies, simple crafts or activities, or motion-activated nightlights.
  • Advise people NOT to give gifts which could be dangerous or cause frustration, such as complicated board games, challenging books, unsafe food items, or pets.
  • Involve your older loved one in gift-giving by asking them to offer gift suggestions for young family members, letting them help wrap, or including them in baking and packaging cookies or other treats.
  • Don’t forget the caregivers! Although it’s rewarding, caregiving is also a tiring and stressful task. If your older loved one lives with a family member or friend who takes care of them, make sure that person also feels the love this holiday season! One of the kindest things you can do is to take over caregiving for an afternoon so your friend or loved one can take some time for themselves.

Check-In With Your Loved One

You may love the holidays, but that doesn’t mean your older loved one feels the same way. Even if they loved celebrating in the past, a person living with dementia may not feel comfortable socializing anymore, or they feel too tired to take part.

They key is to check-in in advance and ask them about their preferences. Plan the holidays together, focusing on the things that bring them happiness, and pushing aside other traditions.

Remember: It’s not any particular activity that makes the holidays special. It’s spending time with those you love. If your loved one with dementia doesn’t want a traditional holiday celebration, that’s ok. It can still be magical, even if it’s just the two of you.

 

Posted in: Dementia

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“Grace” by Jake Adam York

Monday , November 25 , 2019

“Grace” by Jake Adam York

Are you thinking about food this week? I feel like I think about food all the time, but especially in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, which are full of preparations and menu planning. But of course it’s never just the food we are celebrating on this annual day of gratitude—it’s family, memory, and the flow of tradition through the generations. It’s the constant dance of change and continuity that make up our lives. That’s why, even when we try new and innovative recipes, we always save a place on the table for flavors and dishes that were handed down through the generations.

The Southern poet Jake Adam York captures these elements perfectly in his poem “Grace,” which I want to share with you for the holiday. It is not specifically about Thanksgiving, but I know that as we chop, stir, simmer and roast our way through the holiday we will feel the presence of our ancestors and family members near and far that he evokes so beautifully.

May you be nourished by these lines of poetry and by your own family traditions this Thanksgiving.

 

Grace
By Jake Adam York

Because my grandmother made me
the breakfast her mother made her,
when I crack the eggs, pat the butter
on the toast, and remember the bacon
to cast iron, to fork, to plate, to tongue,
my great grandmother moves my hands
to whisk, to spatula, to biscuit ring,
and I move her hands too, making
her mess, so the syllable of batter
I’ll find tomorrow beneath the fridge
and the strew of salt and oil are all
memorials, like the pan-fried chicken
that whistles in the grease in the voice
of my best friend’s grandmother
like a midnight mockingbird,
and the smoke from the grill
is the smell of my father coming home
from the furnace and the tang
of vinegar and char is the smell
of Birmingham, the smell
of coming home, of history, redolent
as the salt of black-and-white film
when I unwrap the sandwich
from the wax-paper the wax-paper
crackling like the cold grass
along the Selma to Montgomery road,
like the foil that held
Medgar’s last meal, a square of tin
that is just the ghost of that barbecue
I can imagine to my tongue
when I stand at the pit with my brother
and think of all the hands and mouths
and breaths of air that sharpened
this flavor and handed it down to us,
I feel all those hands inside
my hands when it’s time to spread
the table linen or lift a coffin rail
and when the smoke billows from the pit
I think of my uncle, I think of my uncle
rising, not falling, when I raise
the buttermilk and the cornmeal to the light
before giving them to the skillet
and sometimes I say the recipe
to the air and sometimes I say his name
or her name or her name
and sometimes I just set the table
because meals are memorials
that teach us how to move,
history moves in us as we raise
our voices and then our glasses
to pour a little out for those
who poured out everything for us,
we pour ourselves for them,
so they can eat again.

Posted in: Aging

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